Friday Q&A: A Conversation with Dhruv Goyal
Happy Monday to all of you out there!
I thought I might start off this week with introducing you to one of my good friends, Dhruv Goyal. Luckily since we’re both here for the summer, I got the chance to sit down with him and catch up on what he’s been up to since the semester ended. Originally from Mumbai, India, Dhruv studies Economics with a secondary in Government and lives in Lowell House here at Harvard. Outside of his academics, he is somewhat of a “Renaissance Man”, actively involved in the Harvard College Consulting Group, Woodbridge International Society, and Undergraduate Council to name a few. We met while serving on the Woodbridge Board and are very excited to be helping out with FIP (Freshman International Program) this year as leaders for our incoming students.
Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us Dhruv! As an international yourself, can you speak to how Harvard facilitates that student transition the moment you set foot on campus?
A: You are most welcome! My experience at Harvard as an international, has been no different from that of any American student. I think that is testimony to the fact that Harvard pays close attention to the needs of International students and ensures that they settle down in a comfortable manner. Even before school begins as a freshman, internationals participate in the Freshman International Pre-Orientation (FIP) program which is essentially designed for this purpose. The program helps us complete administrative work like opening a bank account and getting a US mobile number. It is designed to create a sense of community among foreign students, and friendships that will last throughout college. Some of my closest friends at Harvard are internationals that I met as a FIPer before school began.
Q: Your passion for leadership on campus is evident in your involvement with the Undergraduate Council as Education Chair. How have committees like yours been able to collaborate with the rest of the student body? From your experience with student government, do you one day hope to pursue a career in politics?
A: Many people ask me - “Well Dhruv, if you are definitely going to go back to India to pursue a career there, then how will you ever give back to Harvard?” I have two responses to that. First, I think Harvard wants to create global citizens: those focused on making a difference in whatever field they pursue. Second, my work for Harvard’s Undergraduate Council is my way of giving back to the Harvard community. I currently chair the Education Committee which is focused on making academic reforms which have macro-level implications to Harvard as an institution. We’ve worked on projects such as Transparency in Course Material Costs and Capping Section Sizes to 12. These projects have long time horizons to implementation, but if successful, can make a substantial difference to Harvard’s learning experience.
With regards to your question on a future in Indian politics, I think it is still very early to say. I come from a very political background and therefore it has been an interest since childhood. In the future, if I am given the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of fellow Indians through politics, then it is something that I would strongly consider.
Q: So how exactly do you strike a balance between juggling coursework and extracurricular commitments? With only 24 hours in the day, how do you know where to draw the line?
A: I think the art of time management is unique to each person. A model that works for me will not necessarily work for others. I think as long as you love the work you do, time management is never an issue. It is of course important to select courses and activities that you are passionate about, which will keep motivation levels high and allow you to work hard. That is the only advice I would give there. It is always important to have some downtime from stressful work; my involvement in the Billiards Club is the way I choose to take some time off.
Q: How have you felt supported academically by the faculty and your peers here at Harvard, especially given your interdisciplinary focus?
A: The switch away from Applied Math to Government as a secondary field to my primary work in Economics is simply a product of how much I enjoyed classes in those departments. As I said previously, it is extremely important to enjoy the work you do, and I felt like my government classes were more interesting and thought provoking, again at a personal level. The fact that Harvard is so flexible is another asset that is often ignored by current and prospective students. Academically, both departments have fantastic faculty, with a big emphasis on student support, which makes the entire experience very good.
Q: College students are often concerned with ‘applicability’ of their studies in the ‘real world.’ In your experience, was is it actually like out there in the field doing internships and jobs?
A: I think Harvard creates that tool kit for students which it can then take to the real world. Both through academics and extracurricular activities, Harvard encourages students to be proactive, think critically in problem solving and focus on strong communication skills. These are the kind of qualities that jobs, irrespective of their field or focus, want to see. There are multiple activities that have a ‘pre-professional’ focus, the Harvard Consulting Group is a great example of that. We get to go out and consult real world companies and think about innovative solutions to real problems.
Q: This summer you’re doing research at the Harvard Business School in a relatively new program called PRIMO (Program for Research in Markets and Organizations). We hear about research in tech and medicine all the time, but what is it like for the social sciences? How does PRIMO fit into the larger undergraduate research village at Harvard?
A: What is interesting is that many people do not recognize the value of looking at world problems through a business perspective. Let me give you a good example. If a medical scientist does extensive research and finds the cure to a previously fatal disease, the discovery will be of little use unless serious thought is given to the problems of making the drug widely accessible to people and scaling it to reduce the price. Therefore, there is merit to the idea of research in this intersection between business and science or technology. PRIMO was designed with exactly that purpose. PRIMO kids tend to have very different interests relative to PRIZE students that focus on hard science work. This makes the Undergraduate Summer Research Village all the more exciting since it is an amalgamation of people from different backgrounds and really facilitates an exchange of ideas.