Winter commencement student speaker shares lessons of perseverance
Dec 12, 2023
Harikeshav Narayan said he wants fellow graduates to remember that their hard-earned degrees from Indiana University are not just pieces of paper; they are testaments to dedication and a key that unlocks the doors to dreams and ambitions.
Harikeshav Narayan. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University Narayan will share that message when he takes the podium as the student speaker at both of Indiana University Bloomington’s winter commencement ceremonies at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 15 in IU Auditorium.
An IU Founders Scholar who came to IU from Bangalore, India, to major in finance in the Kelley School of Business, Narayan will be one of 2,002 Bloomington graduates this semester. He’ll receive a Bachelor of Science in business with a minor in economics. He’s on track to take an extended backpacking trip across northern India before joining the Stryker Corp. as a financial analyst on an accelerated management track, beginning in summer 2024.
“We are fortunate to hear Hari share his story and reflections at this year’s winter commencement ceremony,” IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav said. “In his commitment to learning and leading at IU, it is clear that he foregrounds integrity, accountability and empathy — practices that help him inspire and connect with a diversity of graduates as they embark on their varied and bright paths.”
Narayan said his speech also addresses how a college education can cultivate qualities like resilience, adaptability and drive.
“Looking back on our years at IU, I want to emphasize a skill that college has instilled in all of us: perseverance,” he said. “Perseverance is easily overlooked; it isn’t something that can be taught in a classroom. It’s a skill for which Indiana University provided us with a platform to teach ourselves.”
After years of strict discipline standards, pre-dawn alarms and an intensely competitive high school environment, Narayan said he arrived at IU overwhelmed by the vast, sprawling campus and the abundance of possibilities it offered. However, as he paid close attention in classes and developed relationships with friends and faculty, he gained a sense of collective growth — focusing not on who’s best but how the many members of a group can improve together.
In October of his junior year, a family emergency and resultant series of challenging months underscored his growing attention to empathy.
“When people are in crises, we come together in new ways,” Narayan said.
Narayan also cultivated a dual sense of rootedness and adventure — studying for long hours by the IMU fireplace or in the Wells Library stacks one day and riding random buses around Bloomington the next.
“I journeyed from India to the United States after 17 years, solely to attend Indiana University, showcasing my unwavering commitment to using IU as an academic portal toward achieving my long-term goals,” Narayan said. “Over four years, I aimed for both academic excellence and active community contribution.”
After an especially inspiring L201 class with clinical professor of business law Tim Lemper, Narayan requested to serve as a teaching assistant for the class’s following semester. Narayan ended up being a TA for graduate-level business law classes and an undergraduate instructor for microeconomic theory. He said these roles deepened his appreciation for the educational process and allowed him to shape the learning experiences of his peers. As a peer mentor, he dedicated himself to supporting fellow students and serving as a thought partner on their academic journeys.
Narayan also helped rebuild the IU chapter of Phi Eta Sigma, the oldest and largest first-year honor society on campus. Inducted into the chapter as a sophomore, he represented it at two national conventions. In 2023, the chapter inducted more than 650 new members, a success largely attributable to his efforts. He continues his involvement as an advisor to the chapter’s executive committee, and he serves as director of expansion for the Midwest region for Phi Eta Sigma’s national organization.
Earlier this year, Phi Eta Sigma presented him with the Foy-Sagabiel Undergraduate Leader Scholarship Award, given annually to one honoree who is named the top undergraduate student leader among its 386 chapters on campuses throughout the United States. He also was awarded a Founders Fund Scholarship, affiliated with Phi Eta Sigma, citing sustained influence on the organization.
He completed internships at the BDO public accounting firm in Chicago, specializing in tax consultancy, and at the Stryker Corp. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, focusing on financial analytics. Currently he works remotely for CareCognitics, a Las Vegas-based digital health care startup, as a business analyst and client specialist. Narayan said he has further developed his collaboration and critical-thinking skills in these positions.
He said his proudest achievement was generating enough financial resources through summers, scholarships and part-time work during the semester to support himself, recognizing the grit it took to be not only independent but interdependent.
“I implore fellow graduates to embrace the power of perseverance that they have cultivated over the last few years,” Narayan said. “Keep your eyes on the goal, slow down, take a breath and hold on.”