Five Minutes of Fame: UH’s youngest student regent
In June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry selected 20-year-old finance and supply chain management junior Asit Shah to the UH System Board of Regents. Shah is the youngest student ever to be appointed to the Board and will serve a one-year term.
He is a student at the Honor’s College, as well as a member of many different organizations and is the co-founder of Knowledge Solutions, LLC.
The Cougar: You were just appointed as the youngest UHS student regent to the board. How does that make you feel?
Asit Shah: Grateful. Houston and the University of Houston have provided many opportunities for my family to prosper. My service on this board is an incredible way for me to give back to the UH System.
TC: How will you support the growth of the System institutions?
AS: This year, UH-Clear Lake will become a 4-year university. Now, all four institutions will be 4-year institutions, allowing the system to serve our region’s diverse population even more effectively. I hope to bring a “Student Session” to the quarterly board meetings where a few students from each our institutions can share their achievements, struggles and perspectives on UH’s approach to higher education. I don’t know how far-fetched this is yet, but the goal would be to allow our board to hear from the primary source — students — directly about ways that they believe we can support the growth of the system institutions.
TC: What initiatives will you try to strengthen?
AS: Definitely student success. Admissions, advising, alumni participation, class size, culture, graduation rates and identity are all a part of this. I think that we must remind ourselves, as often as we can, that students are the reason for our work. If we want to educate students to enter the world as problem-solvers, forces for good and as leaders, we must ensure that they have top-notch resources for succeeding both in and out of the classroom.
TC: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
AS: Recently, it’s been my mentor, Swapna Patel. She has helped me understand life after college more and has really helped me dig through big questions like, “What kind of person do you want to be?”, “What are your 10 year goals?” and “What’s important to you?” While I don’t have all the answers to these questions, I’ve definitely started to understand myself better in a career perspective.
TC: Is there a particular professor that you’d like to commend?
AS: Dr. Joseph A. Pratt, my professor for Introduction to Energy and Sustainability and Case Studies in Energy and Sustainability. As a professor, he taught us to ask questions and not to be afraid of the answers. Even in a class of 70, he managed to make the class smaller by learning each of our names and by tracking the progress we made in the class. That was the first class that I actually began going to office hours more regularly and I began to look forward to studying.
He also took interest in my extra-curricular endeavors proactively. I remember telling him that I applied for this position and that I felt the odds were against me. Almost every week or so, he would ask me whether or not I got the position. Not every professor takes interests in students, but those who do make all the difference in the world. He invested confidence in me, and in return I became more confident in my future.
TC: What’s been the best part of being a student here at UH?
AS: One — Cougar Red Fridays. When everyone wears red on Fridays, it conveys unity and brings out the pride we share for this institution. Two — people say this all the time, but I can’t help but repeat it: the diversity. When you step outside of Houston, you began to realize that the experience of learning in diverse populations is priceless.
TC: What is your philosophy on life?
AS: I’m 20. I haven’t figured that out yet.
TC: What’s your favorite memory at UH?
AS: We were presenting a research project during finals week last fall. Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, an astronaut, attended and asked us questions about our project. I had never physically met an astronaut before. When I found out she graduated from UH it was like giving candy to a kid; I was ecstatic.
TC: What do you think about UH?
AS: It’s an outstanding university with a very, very promising future.
TC: What school-related activities have been the most fun for you?
AS: The football game and Holi, a Hindu festival, were a lot of fun.
TC: What is the most significant turning point in your life?
AS: I’m 20. Every year has been a turning point! I think as I get older, I’ll better answer this question.
TC: What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
AS: In whatever capacity you can, get involved! The friends you will make and the experiences you take away from extracurricular activities are half of what make college worthwhile.
TC: If you could meet a younger version of yourself (maybe a 16- to 18-year-old you) in the future, what advice would you give yourself?
AS: Don’t listen to me.