A graduate focused on health and community revives a student organization

Published: May 4, 2023

By: Tom Moore

Portrait of student outdoors on UMBC campus
Avni Patel (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

Avni Patel

Degrees: B.S., Biological Sciences; B.A., Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies
Hometown: Ellicott City, MD
Post-grad plans: Medical school

Avni Patel has completed a demanding double major in biological sciences and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies while also emerging as a leader among her peers, with a focus on building community. She has served as secretary of the Hindu Students Council (HSC), as a member of the UMBC Red Cross, and as vice president of the UMBC Global Brigades, the campus chapter of the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization.

Her executive leadership with HSC has been particularly meaningful. Wanting to create a sense of community with other Hindu students and students from different backgrounds on campus, Patel worked with student colleagues to revive the dormant organization. She cites her experiences with HSC as giving her key leadership and problem-solving skills. After numerous fundraisers, meetings, and networking, the HSC held a spring 2023 Holi celebration (the Festival of Colors), attracting more than 700 attendees from across the campus community.

In addition to undergraduate research in the biological sciences lab of Jeff Leips, Patel served as a learning assistant for introductory chemistry classes and as an exam proctor for courses in biological sciences and chemistry.

A community of people toss colorful powder into the sky, creating a line of colors
The Hindu Students Council 2023 Holi Celebration on Erickson Field

Has there been a mentor or fellow student who influenced your time at UMBC?

“Dr. Jeff Leips and Dr. Kathryn Kein have been major influences and supporters. In my first year, Dr. Leips took the time out to explain certain concepts to me and ensure that he answered any questions I had. The year after, he served as a mentor and I joined his genetics research lab, where he offered me guidance on my research. Dr. Kein has been my professor for multiple gender, women’s and sexuality studies courses and my advisor in the program as well. Today, she is not just my professor, she is my mentor. She has always advocated for me and provided support for my capstone research project and future endeavors.”

What has been the best part of your UMBC experience?

“The best part of my UMBC experience was finding a diverse community of peers and mentors where I was appreciated and encouraged to reach my full potential. Being able to be involved in different organizations and experiences at UMBC allowed me to immerse myself in an environment that was academically and socially nourishing. One of the things I appreciate the most about UMBC is its commitment to diversity. As someone who did not grow up with people that looked like me, UMBC was a breath of fresh air. I was able to form relationships and connect with so many different people.”

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