Shivani Patel on Advocating Health and Happiness

By Miranda Koewler


Pharmaceutical sciences student Shivani Patel knows that her actions can make a powerful impact across the globe. Read her story to find out more about her incredible journey at Ohio State and around the world.

shivani patelMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Shivani: I am studying pharmaceutical science. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I love chemistry. I want to help others learn and understand the medication they are taking and how it helps their body.

What are you involved in on campus and in the Columbus community?
With the Global Health Initiative program, I went to Malawi. There, I gave health presentations to help educate villagers. We were able to give them supplies they did not have access to for things like pneumonia and neonatal health. I also helped to take blood pressure and provide simple medical check ins. We were trying to create a system where they don’t rely on medications, because they won’t have access to them. We also brought clothes, pencils, coloring books and household supplies.

I’m also a USG senator for the pharmacy department. Lastly, I helped bring the ONE Campaign to Ohio State. The mission is to help communities with extreme poverty and high rates of preventable disease.

shivani in malawi
“I struggle finding words for how humbled I am to have been with the people of Malawi for the duration of the trip,” says Shivani. “I miss them and the feeling of pure happiness that I experienced there every day.”

What are three words to describe you?
First, I would say mindful. I am always looking for how my work can benefit other people. I try to pay attention to how others are feeling, because it’s important to understand what they’re going through. Next is ambitious. I set goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them. Lastly, adventurous. I’m constantly looking for new experiences to get out of my comfort zone. I try to dive into things head first –– I committed to Ohio State even before seeing it!

In your bio, you talked about fostering happiness and creating positivity around you. How do you see this in what you do at Ohio State?
I have always been the type to approach anyone, and try to do so with sincerity and care. You have to acknowledge that everyone is doing something they love, so there is no reason to shut them down. One smile can change someone’s day and keep them motivated.

How did you realize that helping others is what you’re meant to do?
I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, not just because I love science but because I love people. I’m passionate about helping people who have no means of helping themselves, because where someone lives shouldn’t determine their quality of life. One person can change so much by helping, advocating or bringing happiness. It feels good to do good.

Can you tell me more about the ONE campaign?
The ONE Campaign’s mission to end extreme poverty and diseases in Africa. They prioritize by talking to village elders to find out what is actually needed. It’s advocacy to help promote and bring this movement alive, not through actions but through speaking up. There is power in words and how they connect people.

What have been your biggest successes or most proud moments while working with ONE?
I was Invited to National Power Summit in D.C. where I got to hear from sponsors like the RED campaign and Malala Fund. People from all over the globe came together for one common cause. We heard about equal education for young women all across the globe. It’s a concept that many women never thought would come to light. I hope to bring that feeling back to Ohio State.

What advice do you want to pass along to your fellow Buckeyes?
Keep your paradigm wide. Instead of doing things your friends are doing, do one thing nobody else is. You’ll be surprised by how much you like doing something on your own. I came to Ohio State knowing few people, so being thrown in by myself helped me to find what I love.

Ari Vandersluis: The Power of Positive Change

By Miranda Koewler


Fourth-year operations management student Ari Vandersluis has his sights set on medical school, but plans to make a positive impact on the student experience here at Ohio State first.

ari vandersluisMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Ari: I’m a business operations management major in the Fisher College of Business. I’m also pre-med. I know that’s a bit different, but I think the business degree will allow me to look at medicine more holistically. It fosters people-oriented thinking.

What are you involved with on campus and in the Columbus community?
I have been in BuckeyeThon since freshman year and am currently serving as the vice president of outreach and engagement. I oversee events throughout the year and our year-long engagement strategy. I am a member of the Mount Leadership Scholars Society, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and the 111th Class of SPHINX Senior Honorary.

Lastly, I serve as a clinical research coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where I work on quality improvement studies in the hemophilia department. In this role I focus on what will have the best results for consumers rather than what is the most “groundbreaking.” My current project looks at assessing and providing knowledge for patients with hemophilia to ensure they are medically independent by 19 to 20 years old.

What are three words to describe you?
First, I would say ambitious. I’m very goal and achievement oriented, and I am driven by a specific idea of what I want an outcome to be. For the next two, I would say creative and analytical. I put these two together because most personality tests would say they are very conflicting – but I like to look at and solve problems in creative ways that are also actionable. Putting these two mindsets together works best in real-life applications, because I can look at things from both perspectives.

Why are you inspired by providing opportunity for others to make change?
Ohio State has shown me that regardless of your passion or interest, there is always someone who shares that passion and will help you thrive. People harness these opportunities and resources to prove that anyone can do anything they want. We all have the same opportunities to grow here. This campus is filled with ambitious people ready to change the world, and it motivates me to know that I can do the same.

Who has empowered you to become a positive change maker?
More often than not, it’s the people I work with in BuckeyeThon. They’ve shown me the way my actions can make a larger impact. Before I was on the executive board, I felt like my impact was within the small circle of work I was doing as a committee member. My more recent positions have allowed me to think bigger to see how my interactions change the way students think about philanthropy.

What has been the result of the empowerment you’ve found in BuckeyeThon?
It has proven over and over throughout my college career that I can make a strong impact in the world around me by working with people and sharing my ideas. A group of people working toward a common goal can have a larger impact than individuals on their own, and the mind power at Ohio State has so much potential.

During my sophomore year, I took a service-learning class where my service site tasked me with organizing the community free store. When I first walked in, it seemed like a mountain of clothing, so I worked with a classmate to research how we could make it a sustainable resource that would help the community access clothing and other daily necessities. We ended up creating an efficient system for long term success. Working together for a clear purpose is what drove us to find what was best for this community.

What advice do you want to pass along to your fellow Buckeyes?
There is always more to learn on this campus. Take advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom. Get involved, find new passions, learn new things – people and experiences change as you grow, so push yourself out there. Any passion you have, you can find an opportunity here at Ohio State to grow it.

Candace Cooper: Building a Better Future for Tomorrow’s Leaders

By Miranda Koewler


Candace Cooper, a senior studying social work, has a clear vision of her purpose and how she will use it to help others find their voice. Her passion is as empowering as her plans for the future.

Candace CooperMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Candace: I’m majoring in social work because I aspire to make an impact on the community and give back to young women of color. I want to be able to create a space for these young women to be their authentic selves, to be vulnerable. Finding a way to promote professional and personal development is important – these spaces are often not available to girls of color.

What are you involved with on campus and in the Columbus community?
I am a member of the African American Voices Gospel Choir. I am an ambassador for the Young Scholars Program as well as an ambassador for the College of Social Work. I work in the Student Life Multicultural Center and do research for the College of Social Work. Lastly, I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

What are three words to describe you?
I would say ambitious, confident and charismatic. I achieve anything I set my mind to, because I am determined and empowered by my goal of helping others. I am very much a people person, and most of the work I do involves interacting with and learning about the unique experiences of other students on campus. Lastly, I strive to be the best version of myself. I bring a positive attitude and sense of hopefulness to make every day more enjoyable and challenge myself to do more for those around me.

Where did your passion for advocacy originate?
I first discovered it in middle school. I was involved in many summer programs and I was always looking for ways to do more. If I saw a way that I could help out, I stepped up. This is where I started to grow a passion for helping. I have always known that I did not want to feel stuck in a my job, so finding something I was passionate about that allowed me to help others led me to social work.

Who would you say is a role model or inspiration when it comes to this passion?
My supervisor, Dr. Gisell Jeter-Bennett. Working under her guidance is where I found my passion for working with women, which has now become my purpose. I do research in the College of Social Work that focuses on African-American women and their unique experiences in the realm of higher education. The work focuses on looking at diversity and gender identification in connection with ideas of success. This information helps create programming for the Women Student Initiatives within the Multicultural Center.

Tell me about the non-profit you plan to start.
I plan to one day create a place for young women of color to access programming that promotes positive self image, professional development, healthy relationships and ways to be their best selves. Women of color do not always have the best guidance, so creating a mentorship program that connects them to successful women in college could be very impactful. I also want to start a scholarship fund that can support at least one woman’s college experience.

How has your love of education made an impact on your life?
I have always appreciated learning and I see the mind as an incredibly powerful thing that shouldn’t be wasted. Inside or outside the classroom, we always have the opportunity to learn, grow and change. Learning is something that constantly surrounds us. We just have to be open to taking in information and seeing how it can change us. Many people think the learning process ends when school ends, but graduation is a beginning – not an end.

What advice do you want to pass along to your fellow Buckeyes?
Always strive to be the best version of yourself. Change is not a destination but a journey, so stay confident and intentional with the impact you want to leave on the world.

Nicky Stewart’s Passion for Exploration

By Miranda Koewler


Fourth-your marketing student Nicky Stewart and I sat down to chat about his passion for finding new passions the wide range of interests and experiences that prove how extraordinary he really is!

Nicky StewartMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Nicky: I’m majoring in marketing as a part of the Fisher College of Business. I originally came in studying industrial design, but decided that I was seeking something more business-focused. I’ve been able to use my creative thinking and apply my design skills to find ways to cater what I am studying to better fit my interests.

What are you involved with on campus and in the Columbus community?
I’m on the executive board of the Ohio Union Activities Board. I serve as the co-director of marketing where I coordinate our social media presence. I’m also a part of BuckeyeThon where I serve as the graphics coordinator for the Marketing and Communications Committee.

Lastly, I’m a graphic design intern for Student Life Marketing. I have the opportunity to work with student organizations and Student Life departments to design graphics and other marketing pieces for them. Some projects offer a lot of freedom in creative thinking, which I’ve really enjoyed.

What are three words to describe you?
First, I would say creative. I get to use this a lot with graphic design and marketing, but I also find that it applies to the new interests and projects that I take on all the time.

Related to that, I would say passionate. I’m a firm believer in finding something you love and diving into it completely. It’s interesting, though, because I always seem to be changing what I love. Whether it’s photography or baseball, I get really invested in whatever I’m doing and just run with it.

I think the last word would be focused. When I want to do something, I always put in 100 percent and do it to the best of my abilities. I invest wholeheartedly to make sure I’m happy in whatever I am doing.

You said that your interests are always changing. What are some things you’ve been focusing on recently?
Recently, I’ve mostly been working on photography. I don’t really make any plans with it. Instead, I’m just seeing where the love of the art takes me. It has led me to meet some great people and make new friends while going out around Columbus to take pictures. Another thing i’ve been invested in is running. I originally planned on running a full marathon, but after an injury, I decided to tone it down to a half marathon.

Lastly, I would say baseball. I’ve been a huge Cleveland Indians fan for a while, so I was getting very consumed by the World Series hype. I started digging more into the statistics within baseball and learning more about the players and other team. As you can tell, this is a wide variety of things. I tend to get obsessed with something for a while before I move away from it and onto something else.

How has Ohio State helped you facilitate this exploration?
You have endless opportunities to discover what you’re passionate about and find new interests. There are infinite resources to take advantage of. Columbus is a great place to explore, too. There’s always something going on in the Short North, Downtown or German Village. This city has been a great tool for me to utilize while navigating through my interests, especially with photography. It has allowed to me to experience some really unique places.

Do you have any specific plans for the future?
Not exactly. I’m looking around, but I’m still uncertain of exactly what I’m looking for. I’m lucky to have had great experiences working with different types of people with different work styles. I’m learning how to cooperate with a wide range of ideas and to challenge the way I think about things.

What advice do you want to pass on to your fellow Buckeyes?
Get involved with as many things you can and find people with similar interests. You’re bound to find people that share the same values and ideals as you. Once you find them, stick with them because you never know what amazing things could come from those relationships.

You can check out Nicky’s latest photography on his website: www.nick-stewart.com

Shamina Merchant: Shaping a Better Tomorrow

By Miranda Koewler


Sitting down with third-year Shamina Merchant brought incredibly meaningful conversation about her deep-rooted values and her hopes for technological advancement in the future. Shamina’s story is an example of a unique and spectacular student experience.

shamina merchantMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Shamina: I am majoring in information systems in the Fisher College of Business. I really enjoy problem solving and looking for long term results. I am also extremely interested in the advancement of technology. Adding these components together to study how they fit with one another is the best of both worlds for me.

What are you involved with on campus and in the Columbus community?
I serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for Undergraduate Student Government. I work closely with the issues committees and oversee the fluidity of the organization to make sure we are achieving our goals. I am also now on the University Senate Fiscal Committee that works to make college more affordable. Outside of USG, I am the Director of Project Sourcing for the Buckeye Undergraduate Consulting Club. We collaborate with the Columbus community to give back and also gain experience.

What are three words to describe you?
First, passionate. I care about this school, and being a part of something like USG allows me to hear stories of student experiences. This is what drives me to be involved and make changes happen. Next would be persistent. I am willing to devote my time and push towards something if I put my mind to it. If there is an idea, I will find a way to make it possible when others may not see a solution. I know this isn’t just a word, but finally, I would say I strive to learn from everyone I meet.

There are two values that are important to your family: pluralism and education. Can you tell me more about the importance of pluralism for you?
Pluralism stresses learning from every person you meet. When I was younger, I was involved in Muslim religion classes where we learned about the history of Islam as well as other cultures and religions. We were taught about things we may not have been exposed to originally. I recently interned in India where I was surrounded by a lot more diversity.

I also went to Israel to see Jerusalem and learn more about the subjects I have learned about for years. The world is filled with people who have lived through astronomically different experiences. We have to be respectful and understanding to everyone we meet, because we truly do not know the life they are living or the lessons they can teach us. I learned a lot about different perspectives by learning about the challenges my dad faced . He is my superhero who always encourages me to have optimism for the future.

And what about education?
I find that education does intertwine with pluralism and the idea of giving back to the world around you. It allows us to have a background and basis to connect with other people. We must always be working to uplift communities around the world. My dad’s personal experience has reiterated the importance my parents have stressed. He came to the United States by himself and had to adjust to a lifestyle where he could support himself and his family back home, all while getting an education. Every decision he made was affected by hope for his future children’s access to education – this was something unattainable in India.

As another interest of yours, how do you see technology advancing into the future?
Every day we are hearing announcements about how Ohio State is looking to bring students into the world of the future with technology. Creating access to anything – quickly and easily – is the most important resource we can offer students. I had the privilege of working with the Ohio State app team to make it better for student use, so I can’t wait to see how that, and other additions like the Apple partnership, impact the future of this university.

What are your own future plans?
I like to take the future into account, but I do not necessarily know what it means for me. I am interested in going into consulting, possibly for higher education. This is never something I originally would have considered, but it would give me the chance to look at differences and find unique problems faced by universities. I would have the opportunity to create solutions that have lasting impacts. I know for sure that I want to continue to travel and learn more about different cultures and different people. Then, I can use what I learn to give back.

What advice do you want to pass on to your fellow Buckeyes?
This is something that might be a little bit weird, but I try to start conversations with people I have never met. I like to learn about all their different experiences as students. These discussions have become some of the most insightful conversations I have ever had. I love utilizing these opportunities to connect, because people on this campus are going to change the world someday.

Elena Camacho on Resilience, Empowerment and Advocacy

By Miranda Koewler


As an aspiring doctor and Army veteran, Elena Camacho believes in the power of treating people like the individuals they are. With a mission to help those in need, Elena’s story is moving and impassioned.

elena camachoMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Elena: Psychology. I immediately was hooked after taking the intro class. I was fascinated by the connection of the mind and the way people act. This understanding really helped me heal after some traumatic experiences earlier in my life.

What are you involved in on campus and in the Columbus community?
I work with the Ohio State Suicide Prevention Program. As the military community advocate, I work very closely with veterans here on campus. In this position, I strive to represent the interests of those students within that demographic. I am also involved in Humanism in Medicine. We learn how to be better aspiring doctors by focusing on treating people as individuals.

What are three words to describe you?
Based on what I’ve been through and where I am today, I would say resilient. I had some traumatic experiences in the past, but through it all, I bounced back. Along with that, I would say strong. Life requires a lot from you, and I had to realize that a part of being strong is being vulnerable. Lastly, compassionate. Getting knocked down and reaching rock bottom teaches humility. People go through things you would never know, so imagine putting yourself in their shoes.

How has growing up bicultural given you a different perspective on your life and college experiences?
I was born in California, but lived in Mexico for 11 years growing up. I’m accustomed to two extremely different perspectives that have opened up the world to me. They challenge me and make me smarter because I’m able analyze things from two different views.

How did your time in the Army influence you? What did you learn from this experience?
I joined the Army as a medic and spent most of my service stationed in Hawaii. I’m used to moving around a lot in the military, but it allowed me to see other places like Texas, Oklahoma and the deserts of California. The military became my family. I experienced the greatest camaraderie that I could ever imagine and have now found my place in the veteran community. My time in the Army truly showed me that there is always a greater purpose in life.

How did you get involved with the cause of suicide prevention?
My best friend died by suicide, so I have since felt compelled to be involved. I am surrounded by passionate people with a common goal of breaking the stigma around suicide and mental health. I am creating events to inform and spread hope, and I am helping students with REACH trainings. It’s very meaningful to see your work affecting others.

What are the most important things you want people to know about suicide prevention?
First and foremost, suicide is preventable. People see it as a hopeless cause, but evidence shows that suicide can be prevented. Second, individuals really do make a difference. Checking in with friends and family can turn their day around. Third, caring makes a difference. Showing signs of support is crucial. Lastly, suicide prevention is a shared campus responsibility. Everyone should be involved.

You mentioned some people who inspire you. Can you tell me more about them?
My inspiration comes from my mom. She is the strongest female figure I have ever come across. Other resilient women that I have looked to in hard times include Frida Khalo, Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz and Selena Quintanilla. They are like rebels who don’t let anyone or anything tell them no. They are never limited by people or their expectations. I admire any fierce human who defeats or challenges the odds stacked against them.

Where do you see yourself taking your interests and passions in the future?
I will always be a strong advocate for suicide prevention. In general, my passions lie within helping others because there is nothing more rewarding than this. I wouldn’t be where I am without positive people in my life, so I am trying to make the world a better place for others.

What advice do you want to pass along to your fellow Buckeyes?
Be the hope and change you want to see in the world. Spread light. Know that you make a difference and matter to someone. Also, never forget that mental health matters.

How Pavan Peketi is Using His Platform for Good

By Miranda Koewler


Fourth year Pavan Peketi voiced his desire to see positive change in the Ohio State experience as well as the global community during our interview – and he has some ideas about how to make it happen.

pavan peketiMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Pavan: I am a neuroscience major. I want to apply my love of science to work with hands-on care. I also hope to use my potential platform to make an impact. I know there are injustices in the world regarding health care and diversity, so I want to work to make a difference in these areas.

What are you involved in on campus and in the Columbus community?
I am currently President of the Ohio Union Activities Board (OUAB). I have a vision to expand it and unite our community as a whole. OUAB has been important to me since my sophomore year. It’s all about making the greatest experience for our students. OUAB is so adaptable to each person’s interests and skills; it even gave me the opportunity to explore my passion for graphic design.

I was also an RA in Smith-Steeb for two years. It changed my outlook on life and showed me how to be more accepting.

Within the medical field, I volunteer at the Wexner Medical Center and Mount Carmel in the inpatient rehab unit. I am a research assistant in the psychology department at Ohio State, which allowed me to present at the Denman Research Forum.

What are three words to describe you?
Creative. I try to find unique ways to face obstacles. Also, like I said earlier, I have a passion for graphic design. I really taught myself how to do it, but I ended up working with NBABuzz to create things for them.

Second is inclusive. I really value respecting others and showing appreciation. In OUAB, I strive to provide events to target specific populations that may not have as many outlets across campus.

Lastly, I would say eager. Before some of these experiences, I never saw myself as someone who put himself out there. Now, I have grown into a leader and love trying new things.

What message(s) do you hope to convey through your future platform?
Everyone is welcome in this world and this society. We need to sacrifice for the well being of others and the community as a whole. Participating in a Buckeye Bus trip this summer opened up my eyes to a part of Ohio I never knew. This new perspective showed me that nothing should be taken for granted in life. We need to appreciate the time we have in college by doing things we’re passionate about.

How do you think hearing people’s stories has influenced your passions?
Individual stories show that the injustices you hear about in the news are real. People really experience them. I appreciate the diversity we see at this school – we have to embrace our differences to really appreciate what we can learn from them. To advance as a society, learn and expand, we need diversity.

Through your work with OUAB, how have you seen a positive impact at Ohio State?
OUAB really makes a difference in the student’s college experience. They will be some of the most memorable moments a student has. Our goal is to bring an impact to campus even if that means just making one person’s day. We are always making great steps towards inclusiveness.

What advice do you want to pass along to your fellow Buckeyes?
Don’t take the opportunities you have here for granted. Reach out to people and connect with those around you because you never know where it will lead. All Buckeyes want to help each other out.

Kayla Boggess: No Voice Goes Unheard

By: Miranda Koewler


After gushing over the possibility of a reboot of our shared favorite show, The Office, Kayla Boggess opened up about her time at Ohio State and her journey to discover more about her family history.

kayla boggessMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Kayla: I’m majoring in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in American Indian studies. I took engineering classes in high school and knew I would love the topics, as long as it was not mechanical engineering. In my major, we take most of our classes together, so we are really close knit.

My dad’s side of the family has an expansive American Indian heritage, and growing up, I learned a lot about the traditions and culture. My sophomore year in STEP, I was encouraged to get involved with other students with similar backgrounds.

What are you involved in on campus and in the Columbus community?
I’m in the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) where I hold a position on the planning committee for the regional conference next semester. I’m also involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). With this group, I’m working to create support for women in these fields through diversity and inclusion.

What are three words that describe you?
Talkative, for sure. I love to share about myself and be with other people. I could go on forever about the things I care about. Also, optimistic. I strive to find the light in any part of life. No matter the situation, I trust that things will work themselves out and everything will be okay in the end. Lastly, outgoing. I love meeting new people and learning about them. I feel like I could talk to anyone. With that, I’m always looking to try new things and experience the most that I can.

Why do you think it’s important to create support for women in STEM fields?
It’s incredibly important to make sure that everyone has a voice and that they’re able to use it no matter who they are. I have been in various situations where I have been looked at differently because I am a woman. Either I won’t be trusted when giving my ideas, or others will take the credit for them. These are such male-dominated fields, but we are working on being a part of the conversation and showing just what we can do.

Recently, my mom and my friend went to a conference where they learned about promoting the female voice in the workplace, so I’m bringing this idea to campus. I’m utilizing the groups that I’m already a part of to bring unity and support under the idea of diversity and inclusion within engineering.

You also took on a project to trace your family tree. What has that journey been like for you?
Last semester I spent a lot of time looking into my family history on my dad’s side. I’ve always known that my family traces back to Chief Red Cloud of the Cherokee people because we have newspaper articles and original headdresses, so this is where my research began. I worked closely with my family, especially my grandparents, to connect everything as much as I could.

This was quite an experience, and I loved the way it brought my family together. These stories represented a different time and place in history that I became so fascinated with. My dad and grandpa recently went to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota where Red Cloud lived. The craziest part of it is that all over the country, people are learning about Red Cloud and the traditions of my family.

How do you see these aspects of your life influencing your path in the future?
As far as my Native American side, I’ll continue to become more attuned to my culture and use it as a way to promote diversity and inclusion. My major has helped me form long lasting and meaningful relationships. I’ve been able to understand more clearly what it is I want to do. My most recent internship has shown me that I love working with the idea of continuous improvement when it comes to processes of people. I really like taking things apart and making them better.

What advice would you like to pass on to your fellow Buckeyes?
Get involved early and don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Adding differences into your life can help you to shape your views or even validate the ideals you already possess.

Colin Quinn Strives to Better the Lives of Others

By: Miranda Koewler


Sitting down with fourth-year Colin Quinn, I learned about his Massachusetts roots and inspiring goals for the future. Read on for an incredibly unique and powerful Buckeye story!

colin quinnMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Colin: Biology major with a neuroscience minor on the pre-med track. In the fifth grade, I started getting severe migraines. I was in and out of Boston Children’s Hospital trying to figure out what was wrong. The staff and doctors that helped me inspired me to do the same for others. In my studies, I’ve been able to learn more about neurology and its impact in medicine.

What are you involved with on campus and in the Columbus community?
First, I’m the president of BuckeyeThon. This organization has been a huge part of all four years of my undergraduate experience. I’ve learned so much about myself by being part of the incredible mission to end pediatric cancer alongside thousands of Ohio State students.

I also serve as the Vice President of Advancement for the Student Philanthropy Council and am a brother of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. Once a week I volunteer at Riverside Methodist Hospital. Lastly, I’ve been researching neurogenic properties of retina development, replacement and sustainability.

What are three words to describe you?
Compassionate, dedicated and selfless. I have always tried to live my life with these three qualities in mind. I wake up thinking about how I can create a better world around me. I’ve worked with kids for a long time, so I’m constantly striving to help others. I get the most enjoyment from seeing others people’s happiness.

Tell me more about your passion for helping kids.
At the end of fourth grade, a classmate of mine, Meghan, was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t see much of her the next year because she couldn’t come to school, but she held a fundraising event for other kids like her at Boston Children’s Hospital.

On September 13 during my sixth grade year, an announcement was made at school that Meghan had passed away that morning. I’ll never forget the overwhelming emotions I felt at the wake service when I said goodbye to my friend for the last time. Two weeks later, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Watching her go through the process made me realize the reality of this disease. Luckily she’s happy and healthy today!

My passion for helping kids was reiterated during my five years working at a camp. I started as a lifeguard and worked my way up to being a branch director working with the kids who had disabilities or needed extra attention. Although it was incredibly challenging at times, I worked hard to make sure each child received the camp experience I knew they deserved. Because of my time at camp, I knew that working with kids was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

How did this translate to being involved with BuckeyeThon?
Before my freshman year began, I attended a summer program through Ohio State called RLEAD. Someone gave a presentation about BuckeyeThon and I knew I needed to get involved. I thought this was a chance to live out Meghan’s legacy. I could tell very early on that I was fortunate to be part of this group of people who had a mindset to change the world. I initially got so heavily involved because I could feel how special and important this was, but I never imagined the lasting impact it would have on me.

What are some memories that have kept you motivated for BuckeyeThon’s cause?
Every day I’m inspired by my memories of Meghan and the kids at camp; they are the reasons I am For the Kids. Being in BuckeyeThon has allowed me to meet the most incredible students at Ohio State. When I walk into the room for our Wednesday meetings, I can see Meghan’s spirit being kept alive. It’s the best feeling to see the hard work each person is doing.

There are two Dance Marathon moments in particular that stick out in my head. During my freshman year, the year we broke a million dollars, I had gotten to know one of our BuckeyeThon kids, Luke, pretty well. After the million dollar reveal happened, Luke ran up to hug me, and in that moment I could feel just how important this cause was.

The other moment that impacted me most was during the night shift this past year. I watched the Great Hall fill up with thousands of students all coming together for one goal, to end pediatric cancer. Seeing so many Buckeyes uniting for a single purpose was simply inspiring.

How have these experiences shaped your vision for the future?
I’ve learned a lot about myself through camp and BuckeyeThon. My perspectives on life, goals and relationships with others have completely shifted. If you want to accomplish something and you put your mind to it, it is 100 percent achievable. You never know how many lives you impact when you have dedication, selflessness and love. I want to spend my time as a doctor creating a better world for others.

What advice do you want to pass along to your fellow Buckeyes?
Make the most of your time here. Make the most of every situation you have because life will really be incredible if you do. You never know what will happen next, so have a good time doing what you can right now.

Nastaran Navari: Changing the World, One Person at a Time

By Miranda Koewler


I recently sat down with Nastaran Navari to hear about her incredible journey to becoming an Ohio State student. Nastaran’s kind heart will change the world some day. I hope you find as much inspiration in her story as I have.

Nastaran NavariMiranda: What are you studying and why?
Nastaran: Neuroscience. I think it’s one of the most interesting subjects out there, and I like that it allows me to combine biology and psychology. I’m fascinated by how all the pieces function together to define things like human behavior and disease. Ohio State has a really great, young program with a ton of room for growth, so I am excited to see where it can take me.

Tell me about some things you are involved in on campus and in the community.
I used to live in Iran and received some education there. So, coming to the United States, I definitely felt a culture shock considering I did not know how to speak English. Once I came to campus, I joined the English Conversation Program (ECP). It was my first home here. I was able to meet more international students and grow individually. Eventually I earned a chair position where I have one-on-one interactions with students. I also am involved with Global Leadership Initiative that fosters global citizenship and allows me to meet and help others with multicultural backgrounds.

What are three words to describe you?
Hardworking. I receive good grades but that is simply because I study hard. It’s difficult to have a lot of communication back home in Iran, so I find strong relationships in the faculty here that have helped to push me and learn about myself. Learning English was also incredibly difficult, but I was determined to be successful.

I would consider myself a risk-taker. I try to challenge myself because I learn a lot from the experiences. Challenges make me more mature and allow me to know myself better so that I can further help others. If you want to help others, it starts from your heart.

Thirdly, adventurous. Life is multidimensional and putting yourself out there to try new things is where it all begins.

Can you give me an example of a time your sense of adventure led you to try something new here at Ohio State?
Last semester I joined Scarlet and Gray Financial Coaching. This is an area completely out of my major. I thought it would be a way to help my parents in Iran and other international students at Ohio State. I was on my own here for six months so I became knowledgeable about how to handle it all, and Ohio State offers so many options for information and help.

How have you grown through experiences like this?
I am proud I chose Ohio State as my home, but I was truly afraid when I first came here. I have learned about my passions and aspirations during my time here, specifically about the importance of diversity. You simply cannot define people until you know them. I don’t think I will really ever stop growing or learning.

Can you tell me about the people who have inspired you?
My mom always encourages me to believe in myself and guide with my soul. She tells me to try everything and that nothing is out of reach. Because of her influence, I participated in a symposium about the evolution of women’s rights. It allowed me to pay tribute to the people who help me.

My uncle came to the United States as a teen during the conflict between the U.S. and Iran. He used his will power to make it in this country. I am inspired to be strong and push through any obstacles because of him.

How has all this helped you on your journey to better the lives of others?
I look at people around me to see what is important. I try to eliminate the challenges to make their lives a little bit easier. I volunteer at the hospital, so knowing other languages is one small solution to some of the problems. I use my experiences as a way to share lessons with others, and this process allows me to grow and mature.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I want to be a doctor, but I am focused on living in the present. Being a student is a job that allows me to learn so much. These experiences help me to be patient, communicate with others and find compassion. No matter what I do, I want to bring happiness and a feeling of security to others.

After all these unique experiences, what advice do you want to pass to your fellow Buckeyes?
Take challenges head on! Be yourself and get rid of the idea that you have to fit in with everyone else.