Editor’s Note — This Q&A is part of a weekly conversation series celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature Huskers who are making impacts on campus and look to maintain that momentum in future careers. Learn more about APIDA Heritage Month coverage in Nebraska Today.
This week, meet Aaryan Naik, an economics major from Omaha. On and off campus, he’s passionate about providing mentorship and community for others.
What originally drew you to your major, and is there anything, in particular, you’d like to do after graduation?
I was originally drawn to getting an economics degree due to its wide applicability in many areas. Originally, I did not know what I wanted to do. With this major, I had the possibility of working in finance, management or even research. After graduation, I hope to work more in renewable energy. I have found my passion in renewable energy research and policy implementation. There are a few graduate programs I am looking at, but I am excited to take a gap year to find out what options lie ahead.
Throughout college, you’ve taken advantage of lots of different opportunities — from joining an honors society to finding internships to studying abroad and more. What have you learned from extending your learning outside the classroom?
Although institutional learning in a classroom no doubt serves its purpose, the experience that I have gotten from outside opportunities is so influential. I learned that through extending my reach outside of the classroom, I found how to use classroom knowledge in applicable fields, and I have met more people that have influenced how I think. Since I have such a general major, I have found that using what I have learned in a more focused setting allows me to gain a better understanding of the field in which I am interested. For me, this included a renewable energy internship at Nelnet and an opportunity to do research abroad in Iceland on renewable energy implementation in rural America.
Alongside this, the amount of people I have met through different involvements has no doubt influenced my views. One example of this is Mortar Board, where I was able to meet 30 other campus leaders, and I saw firsthand what service and leadership meant to them. Surrounding myself with other driven and community-minded people helps center me toward my goals and values. My favorite memory was hiking up the fjord in Isafjordur, Iceland. It was a very dangerous trek, and my friends and I discovered the ruins of a Viking village. When we got down, a local told us that he had never heard anyone climbing the fjord on the opposite side! I also jumped into the ocean in the Arctic Circle. Having experiences like this is the reason I want to get involved.
You have a lot of mentorship/coaching experience (Student Strengths Coach, Inclusive Business Leader mentor/TA). Has mentorship always been something you’re passionate about?
Mentorship has been a cornerstone of my identity, as I believe having a close person who is rooting for you is an invaluable experience and helps individuals reach their goals. I think I fell into mentorship early on when I first started as an academic tutor. I continued this by working with others in both formal and informal spaces. Upon arrival in college, I was shaped a lot by the strengths coaches and honors peer mentors that have guided me to find my passions and achieve my goals. I saw myself in this position as well and wanted other students to feel as I did when I was a freshman. I really like to target my energy on strengths and IBL mentoring because of the lasting impact they have on students. Alongside this, I have found myself growing into a more well-rounded individual because of the experience I have had working with so many different types of people. I feel I have gained just as much, if not more, from my different mentoring activities.
Talk about helping start the Inclusive Business Leaders.
I would love to bring attention to the program I helped start in the College of Business: Inclusive Business Leaders. It is a scholarship, cohort-based program that encourages first-generation, diverse and inclusive leaders to advance in this growing field of business. Through the efforts of the faculty, the dean and the other mentors, we have successfully created this program to enrich the lives of people centered around diversity. It includes a diversity-based curriculum, hands-on consulting projects, and connecting with a mentor to aid students in becoming well-versed in seeking business solutions as freshmen. I am deeply passionate about DEI efforts and want to highlight this part of my college impact specifically.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
At the end of the day, I hope to have a loving family and be a positive figure in the lives of those around me. I am deeply passionate about my career path; however, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that everything is fluid. By allowing myself to be led by my core values and the love I give and receive from those around me, my core accomplishments will be tied to my family and the community I surround myself with. I hope to have wonderful children with happy hearts and full stomachs and a loving partner. All else is fluid, and I am excited to see what comes next.
What or who inspires you?
I am mainly inspired by nature. One example is a trail in Yellowstone National Park that’s not very popular, but it’s really amazing. It is called Lost Creek Falls, and it’s a short hike. The first time I went on the trail was with my dad when I was nine, and I loved it. I saw a waterfall at the end of the hike that was really beautiful, and there were no other people around. This experience inspired me to work in national parks when I grew up. Recently, I went back to the same trail with my friend, but the waterfall was gone. I found out that climate change is causing the waterfall to dry up, and this made me want to work to help the environment even more. I know it sounds silly, but truly, the natural world around me inspires me all the time. Whether it is this instance or the plants growing outside my window, being an advocate for conservation and the natural world is my calling. Nothing invigorates me more than the natural world, and seeing climate change impact the places I once loved truly sparks my determination to help the worsening state of our world.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus?
I am a huge proponent for involvement; however, the greatest impact an individual on campus can have is by contributing positively to the people around them. Our spheres of influence impact the people around us today, every day, without us even knowing it. Most impacts made on campus are left by working hard and treating others with kindness and empathy. Even small-scale interactions can become stories of kind-hearted human nature. By focusing your energy on the community, those around you, and small steps in the causes you believe in, you end up leaving the largest impact on campus.