Shivani Rangaswamy, a pre-med student from Cumming, Ga. and a 2016-17 Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar, shares with us her experience with service-learning at UGA and how she plans to meld service with her long-term career goals.

What made you want to get involved with service at UGA?

It is easy to get wrapped up in the college atmosphere and get lost in the “UGA bubble.” But outside our campus is one of the poorest counties in the entire country. By spending significant amounts of time learning about the issues facing the Athens community and working with various nonprofits in the area, I became very interested in facilitating change through my role as a UGA student. UGA has some great programs and organizations, like Public Service and Outreach, that really make huge impacts on our community. Over the past couple of years, service has become one of my main priorities for my undergraduate career.

What do you hope to get out of the Student Scholars program?

For most of my life, I have viewed service and my career as two separate aspects. The Student Scholars program really changed my perspective by showing me how I can integrate service and social responsibility into my career aspirations. I hope to learn skills and avenues through which I can integrate citizenship and service in all aspects of my life.

In addition to the Student Scholars program, what other volunteer and service programs are you involved with, both at UGA and in Athens?

I am a tutor with the Thomas Lay afterschool program where I mentor Athens-Clarke County students on a weekly basis. I also volunteer at the Mercy Health Center, which is a local free clinic. At UGA, I am the vice president of events for RefUGA, a refugee and advocacy student organization, and a service ambassador for the Center for Leadership and Service.

This spring you’ll be working with the Archway Partnership. What made you choose that unit for your internship?

I wanted to work with this program because I am interested in pursuing a career in community-based healthcare and I enjoyed the local and community-oriented approach of Archway. I like how they truly listen to their constituents and empower them with advice and resources rather than operative with a savior mentality.

Do you believe it is important for students to participate in service programs?

Service programs have been such a fulfilling and rewarding experience of my undergraduate career. I am so excited that UGA is making it a priority for their future students with the experiential learning requirement. The nonprofit/public service industry is a very rewarding and exciting field to work in, but not many people know much about it. Getting involved in programs such as Public Service and Outreach can open up career opportunities and pathways that you may never know you had the option to pursue.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

As a pre-med student, I will probably still be in school or training! But when I graduate, I hope to work for a local nonprofit organization. I want to work to provide accessible and affordable healthcare for my community. Your health is one of the most important aspects of your life, and if you are not healthy, you will have difficulty working and supporting yourself and your family. I believe that by providing preventative medicine that is culturally sensitive and locally based, medical professionals can provide citizens with the agency to make positive changes in their life.