Amazing Students

Priya Chandan

Senior Priya Chandan has done many of the same kinds of activities as other Foundation Fellows. She was a member of AquaDawgs, UGA’s synchronized swimming team and helped translate Spanish for the Athens ’ Nurses Clinic. She completed lab research with David Puett in the biochemistry and molecular biology department as well as at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when she found that UGA did not have a relationship with the local Special Olympics programs, she jumped into action. Chandan founded “Special Olympics at UGA,” a volunteer organization that grew to more than 100 members in its first year. She is also working with the UGA Athletic Association to coordinate events with UGA athletic teams and inspire Special Olympic athletes to be their very best. “Special Olympics at UGA” will be used as a model by Special Olympics International for increasing college student involvement. For her, the work is about societal change. She says having an older brother with Down syndrome offers her such a refreshing perspective on life. She has helped to show that volunteers aiming to make a difference in the lives of those with intellectual disabilities often find that it is their own lives that are changed.

Hometown:

Snellville, Georgia

High School:

Brookwood High School

Degree objective:

B.S. microbiology and psychology with minors in Spanish and religion

Expected graduation:

Spring 2007

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I’ve participated in many things during my time here at UGA, such as University Judiciary, Aqua Dawgs synchronized swimming, volunteering at the Athens Nurses’ Clinic, and doing research with David Puett and the CDC. However, the most meaningful thing to me personally is definitely my involvement with Special Olympics. I have been involved with the organization since I was three years old. My older brother has Down syndrome, so my main role in the past was to be his biggest fan. When I came to UGA I wanted to get involved with the program here in Athens, but I found that there was no relationship between Special Olympics Athens and the UGA community. With the help of Julie Evans, the adapted physical education teacher for the area, I was able to create a student organization called Special Olympics at UGA. We provide volunteers to help with the adapted PE classes at four local middle and high schools as well as at the Special Olympics games that occur throughout the year. Furthermore, we have started a close relationship with the UGA Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and have gotten UGA student athletes involved. SAAC helped us host a mixer for Special Olympians and UGA student athletes. SAAC also helped us reach out to various teams here at UGA. The golf team hosted a clinic for 80 Special Olympians, the Gym Dogs supported our fundraiser 5K and adopted the Special Olympics gymnastics team, and various other teams are constantly stepping up with ideas on how they can help. In the spring, we plan to have events with the Gym Dogs, softball, and track and field teams. In addition to supporting the Special Olympians, increasing awareness is very important. This semester, we will be starting a seminar series discussing issues facing those with intellectual disabilities. I hope that these seminars will not only help parents in the Athens community but also educate the UGA student body.

I chose to attend UGA because…

...it felt like home. I think that’s true for everyone because to this day, I have never met someone who graduated from UGA and did not enjoy his/her experience. The enthusiasm from the alumni made me suspect that there was something special about UGA. I’m happy to report that they were right. There is nowhere else I would have rather spent these past four years. Being part of the Bulldawg Nation is incredible. Proudly wearing a UGA sweatshirt, I have been greeted with “GOOO DAWGS!” on 6 different continents!

My favorite things to do on campus are…

...playing freeze tag on Myers quad and playing ping-pong at Ramsey.

When I have free time, I like…

...to play the games I enjoyed when I was younger like UNO, freeze tag, video games, red rover…you name it, it’s still fun. I also have a special fondness for vanilla milkshakes from The Grill.

The craziest thing I've done is…

...bet my friend that I could fit into his collapsible laundry hamper…and won.

My favorite place to study is…

...in the rooms in the Student Learning Center because they have dry-erase boards. Writing class notes on the boards with friends makes studying less painful. Not to mention, there’s a supply of coffee close at hand.

My favorite professor is…

...Rouslan Elistratov in the religion department. I have taken every class he teaches! Too often, the study of religions is split into east and west. Dr. E makes it a point to discuss them both in parallel. In fact, I asked him for a timeline that included significant events in both Eastern and Western theology. He had one the next day, complete with the dynasty in power in China at the time of Jesus’ birth!

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

...my brother, but I would want to rewind back to elementary school when we would help the Ninja Turtles and Warrior Horses (a.k.a. My Little Ponies) in their quest to destroy the evil Barbies. Those epic battles were a great time in our relationship because we spent a lot more time together and could relate to each other more. Growing up has been hard for both of us. However, he always smiles and tells me that he is proud of me. Out of everyone I’ve met or learned about, I am most proud of him.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

...ask everyone at UGA to come to one Special Olympics event for one hour during his or her time here. I would ask them to spend more time, but I know that after one hour, I won’t have to ask—they’ll do it on their own. The positive aura that surrounds these special athletes is impossible to describe, but easy to feel.

After graduation, I plan to…

...attend medical school to pursue a dual M.D.-M.P.H. program so I can be not only a physician, but also an advocate for my patients. I plan to enter the field of developmental medicine, which deals with healthcare for those with intellectual disabilities. After personal family experiences, I have seen the need for physicians in this area, and I am motivated to be one of them. I also plan to continue to work with Special Olympics’ international headquarters in Washington, D.C. Last summer, I assisted during the National Games as a Health Promotion and Behavior staff member. Also, I am currently working on a literature review regarding an international policy recommendation. I hope to be on staff for the 2007 Special Olympics World Games in China.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

...how the football team beat Georgia Tech all four years of my time here (and then some). This is especially important to me because most of my close friends decided to go to Georgia Tech…though I have no idea why.

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