Growing up in Munster, Indiana, Eashan Kumar watched plenty of his friends head off to Bloomington to attend Indiana University. But it took actually applying to help Kumar -- an aspiring doctor who graduates from May 5 with a dual degree in neuroscience and international studies -- realize the depth of possibility available at IU Bloomington.
"As a first-generation college graduate, and being both a grandson and a son of immigrants, I've been raised to value education as a means of opportunity and social impact," said Kumar, who was selected as the 2018 student speaker for spring commencement.
In addition to his dual degree in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Global and International Studies, Kumar will graduate with minors in Spanish, chemistry and psychology. He plans to attend medical school but will first work as a teacher at Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School through Teach for America.
"Mentorship is so important to student success," Kumar said, adding that he has benefited from strong mentorship throughout his own academic career, including guidance from his grandmother, student government advisors in high school, professors at IU and project mentors from his research internship.
"I love what Teach for America has to offer communities: their solution to creating educational equity, and their passion for advocating and supporting underprivileged populations through all walks of life ... There’s strength in empowering and investing in individuals."
With Teach for America, Kumar will acquire a Master of Arts in teaching at Marion University in Indiana. His decision to delay med school came after his IU experiences volunteering in Bloomington clinics and shelters and taking part in research and internships in the U.S. and overseas.
"As a doctor, I want to be able to weigh all of the variables, considerations and factors that make people who they are, and lead to the health issues they have," Kumar said, adding that health and education are the two most important issues in determining a society's success. "I really want to help create a sustainable, equitable and inclusive future."
After four years of teaching and tutoring at IU, Kumar said he has gained firsthand experience on the critical relationship between a person's early educational background and their later academic and career success.
During his time at IU, Kumar has worked with the IU Diplomacy Lab to conduct research on telemedicine in Argentina and environmental policy in Malaysia. He served as an office assistant for Bloomington's Volunteers in Medicine and as a neuroscience research intern at a biotech firm in Barcelona as part of an all Spanish-speaking advanced liberal arts program. He was also a research assistant at IU's Gill Center for Biomolecular Neuroscience and a researcher at University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, where he helped assess the chronic health needs of patients with substance use disorders for a harm-reduction program.
In addition to being named to the Dean's List and being invited to join the Hutton Honors College and Hudson and Holland Scholars Program, Kumar has been involved with the professional co-ed chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma; the IU Student Association; IU Dance Marathon, a fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health; and the Indian Student Association, as well as the competitive collegiate dance team HoosierRaas.
When he's not studying, conducting research or engaged in his many extracurricular activities, Kumar likes to watch live comedy with friends (IU's Twits and Awkward Silence Comedy shows are among his favorites, plus going to shows at Bloomington's The Comedy Attic). He loves Nick's English Hut, tea at the Pourhouse, studying in the Tree Suites in the Indiana Memorial Union, playing the board game Pandemic with friends and watching Game of Thrones, Jessica Jones and The Office (he reluctantly admitted he's an Andy).
"I appreciate the number of opportunities I had at IU," Kumar said. Despite IU's size, he found a home away from home through friends, clubs, classes and faculty. "I'm going to miss the sense of security. Whether it was studying with my friends from Alpha Chi Sigma or just relaxing with friends playing board games, I felt like the community here at IU is a huge reason I stayed sane. Oh, also the food scene -- I look forward to revisiting Fourth Street in the future.”
Jennifer Piurek is director of communications and special projects for the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.