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Superachiever combines studies, service and science

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Anand Sandesara

Anand Sandesara: “There are so many cool people here to meet.”

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

For some, achievement seems to come effortlessly. Then there are the rest of us.

Anand Sandesara falls into the first group.

This year’s recipient of the Donald and Leah Riddle Prize, presented to an outstanding graduating senior, Sandesara is an Honors College pre-med double major in history and biology. At Sunday’s commencement, he graduates summa cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors and two bachelor’s degrees.

And he did it in just three years.

Sandesara fulfilled course requirements through summer study abroad programs in Amsterdam, Cairo and Copenhagen. He took extra hours some semesters, managing to squeeze in minors in French and sociology.

The Glenview native graduated valedictorian from Glenbrook South High School and had his pick of places to attend college. He chose UIC.

“I’m so glad I did because of all the things that have happened since,” Sandesara says.

“I knew I wanted to be in a city, so that helped narrow it down. Glenview is pretty homogeneous and UIC really publicizes its diversity. I was sold by it.”

Sandesara says having great roommates and making new friends made his UIC experience memorable, not to mention the support and dedication of faculty members.

“I’ve come across really amazing professors who are all about UIC’s urban mission. I’ve noticed that people in so many different departments are all about the students, but also very dedicated to their research.”

He was president of Alternative Spring Break, which sends student volunteers to service projects around the country during winter and spring break. This year is the 10th anniversary of the UIC chapter; the group organized 17 service projects (more than double last year) and raised nearly $20,000.

“I’m big on service and there are a lot of service opportunities,” says Sandesara, who also chaired the Volunteer English as a Second Language program. “I realized there are so many cool people here to meet and to learn from.”

On top of studies and service work, Sandesara won first place in this year’s undergraduate Student Research Forum in the sciences category.

While scholarly pursuits nourish the mind, in Sandesara’s case they also pad the pocketbook. The Riddle Prize includes $1,000 and he won a highly competitive $5,000 Fellowship Award from the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

This September, Sandesara sets off for Tanzania to study for a master of public health degree at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam. Costs will be covered by an Ambassadorial Scholarship he won from Rotary International.

“There’s a lot of grassroots outreach work required in the master’s program — that’s what I like about it,” he says.

Sandesara will enter medical school when he returns to the United States and plans to become a doctor in an underserved community, either here in America or abroad. He’s interested in working with groups such as the World Health Organization or Doctors Without Borders.

Wherever he goes, Anand Sandesara thinks his UIC experience will have laid the groundwork for his life’s adventure.

“Once you leave this place, you’re ready to interact with anyone,” he says.

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