Vaishak Kumar and Kriya Patel, two Indian-American students are among 3 winners of the generous 2016 President’s Engagement Prize at the University of Pennsylvania. Seniors Vaishak Kumar and Kriya Patel as well as Melanie Mariano were named the recipients of the $150,000 prize announced March 23, by UPenn President Amy Gutmann.
“Vaishak, Melanie and Kriya embody the very best qualities of Penn undergraduates: their eagerness and ability to translate knowledge into real-world impact and to apply their Penn education toward the betterment of humankind,” Gutmann is quoted saying in a press release.
“These projects represent a most remarkable range of Penn-educated talent, determination and public-spirited enterprise among our students. They will no doubt be outstanding ambassadors of public service, and I look forward to seeing the results of their projects.”
Each awardee receives as much as $100,000 for project implementation expenses and $50,000 for living expenses. The Prizes, first awarded last year, are competitively awarded annually to Penn seniors to design and undertake local, national or global engagement projects during the first year after they graduate.
Kumar, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, plans to use cost-efficient technology and novel research to help farmers in India boost their productivity. He will be part of the NESARA Agricultural Extension program. His initiative will employ mobile technology to improve farmer education in India, where the plight of farmers continues to be of great concern. He will also set up a low-cost mobile laboratory to provide farmers with timely, personalized information. Kumar is being mentored by by Devesh Kapur, director of UPenn’s Cener for the Advanced Study of India.
Patel, also a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, will help women about to be released from the all-female Riverside Correctional Facility in Philadelphia apply for and secure health insurance and identification prior to release. The project entitled “Coming Home to Continued Care, by providing that access to health insurance, will allow the women to stay on their much-needed medication, aiding them with the process of re-entry into society. Patel will keep track of the women for at least three years to monitor the effects of continued care on recidivism rates. She is being mentored by Kathleen Brown, a practice associate professor of Nursing.
Mariano, a Nursing senior, will carry out a project to do with helping library patrons obtain health information, medical counseling and preventive health services.