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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Vishaal Kuruvanka heads Element Red, community outreach efforts

Vishaal Kuruvanka standing with a cougar paw.

Vishaal Kuruvanka is running with Element Red for better student services and safety. He is a double major in mathematical biology and economics. | Michael Slaten/The Cougar

Between handling research projects and tutoring students in the Third Ward, mathematical biology and economics junior Vishaal Kuruvanka has a lot on his plate — and he wants to add being Student Government Association president into the mix.

Kuruvanka is heavily involved on campus. He wants to introduce a University-wide peer mentorship program and make campus safer for students. He’s never been involved in SGA before.

Kurvanka’s dad is a doctor, and Kuruvanka has lived in five different states. He went to Klein Oak High School in Spring and now lives in Moody Towers.

“I know what it is like moving around and making new friends,” he said.

Right now, he is handling two research projects. One at the Texas Medical Center with MD Anderson and another listing every protest in every African country over the past 15 years.

Being so involved, Kuruvanka said he will be able to fulfill the roles of student government president because he’s expecting a reduced class load.

His proposed University-wide peer mentorship program would connect underclassmen to upperclassmen. He said the juniors and seniors can help freshman peers in the same majors get an idea of what classes to take and tell them what their major is like.

Kuruvanka said he would have found a similar program useful. He majored in biology his freshman year, hoping to go to medical school after graduating, but he changed his major and is now reconsidering medical school.

“There should be a student that has been through the entire process that can tell you ‘this is what it’s going to be like. Are you sure this is what you want to do?’” Kuruvanka said.

Throughout the year, Kuruvanka goes to HISD schools in the Third Ward to tutor students. He started the organization Cougar Tutors after reading that HISD test scores are falling.

“I went to Klein ISD and they are pretty well-funded and have a lot of good teachers,” Kuruvanka said. “I felt like it’s not fair I was only able to receive those resources, other kids should be able to do the same thing.”

He gathered his friends and started tutoring at elementary schools in the Third Ward. If he were elected, he wants SGA to have more outreach initiatives in the Third Ward.

Element Red put out a poll asking students if they feel safe on campus, Kuruvanka said.

“An overwhelming majority of students said they don’t feel safe on campus,” he said. “We need to get more officers out there, more emergency call boxes, and we need more lighting at night time.”

Kuruvanka said past administration’s have certain initiatives that worked right. He said former SGA President Shane Smith pushed for new food service provider and President Winni Zhang pushed to have a CAPS statement on all syllabi.

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