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Karan Malik '15

Biochemistry

Thank you, Dean Birren for the introduction. I would also like to thank the professor or student who nominated me for this award. Thank you, Elaine and Sybil, for bestowing this honor upon me.

New, returning, graduating UDRs: welcome! I am very honored for being given the opportunity to speak to you all. For those of you that I have not met before, my name is Karan Malik and I’m a UDR for the Biochemistry department. Sybil asked that I share what I have done as a UDR and what I have learned from this position. I promise to keep it short – I know everyone would like to get on with lunch. I would like to share a quote from my favorite author, Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison said, “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower some-body else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”

I believe I have truly internalized this directive from her. I definitely tried to employ this approach to my position as a UDR. As campus leaders, we have a special responsibility to advocate for those students who cannot – to use our unique experiences to facilitate necessary discourse. Our experiences and excellent professors have brilliantly trained us for this job. However, this leadership position is much more than just knowing about major requirements or revising class schedules. Not only do we serve as role models, we also have a responsibility to use the access we are given to improve our department for its constituents.

In approaching this position with Ms. Morrison’s quote in mind, I felt as though my focus was always guided – I simply wanted to help anyone that my sought help. I also felt that my experience as a UDR was multifaceted in that I also am a Roosevelt Fellow, a TA for the core class for my major, and an undergraduate researcher in a biochemistry lab. So, I never really felt like the UDR position required a lot of effort, because in an at-tempt to do my other jobs, I found that my UDR job did itself. Specifically, I was able to employ my advising skills in the UDR position as I frequently met with students who were curious about the biochemistry major. I was always in lab, so I thought it would be helpful if I reserved some time every week when anyone could meet with me to talk academics. However, all of my conversations were not about academic issues. Often times, students communicated stresses they felt due to the major. They communicated feelings of apprehension and anxiety – they told me about every-day concerns. Many times, students just came to talk. I think we can all agree that every now and then it’s nice to hear: “Hey, that plan sounds great!” I am very grateful that I was able to meet and advise such wonderful students – I wouldn’t have met them if it weren’t for this position.

Some tasks that our Biochemistry UDR team accomplished specifically centered on the fact that UDRs serve as liaisons between undergraduates and the department faculty. Many students were not the happiest with one course required for biochemistry majors. Seeing this general consensus, we went to the UAH and Department Chair and asked that we have a feedback session – where current majors can highlight positives and negatives regarding specific classes.

As UDRs, we are also given access to enact change within our departments! The major bulletin for your department isn’t written in stone – it is always tentative and subject to change. For instance, a BS in biochemistry requires upwards of 23 courses. It is advised that students place out of introductory courses when possible. One problem was that students were not able to use AP credit to place out of biology, but they could use it for chemistry. I brought this up to the UAH, and this started a conversation between the biochemistry and biology department UAHs/chairs about the possibility of allowing the use of AP credit for biology. It is my hope that this change is employed as it could make the lives of some biochemistry majors a bit easier. I would like to thank you all once again. Thank you for hearing my reflection regarding this wonderful position.

I would like to remind everyone that what you do with this position is entirely up to you! I’m always excited by the innovative and unique ideas that we come up with. I wish that you all have a wonderful academic year. Thank you!