Dhairya Desai ’25 honored as Newman Civic Fellow

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UNC Charlotte student recognized for commitment to solving public problems

Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education, has named the student civic leaders from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico who will make up the 2024-2025 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. Dhairya Desai, a student at UNC Charlotte, was named as a member of the cohort.

The Newman Civic Fellowship is a yearlong program that recognizes students who stand out for their leadership potential and commitment to creating positive change in communities. The fellowship is named for the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who was a tireless advocate for civic engagement in higher education. In the spirit of Dr. Newman’s leadership, each fellow is nominated by their campus president or chancellor, who is invited to select one exemplary community-committed student from their campus each year.

Dhairya, a rising senior and Levine Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is a student and servant leader working to address health inequities and enhance overall community wellness. Committed to issues of access, Dhairya leads a partnership with the local YMCA to provide accessible and culturally sensitive CPR classes to underserved communities; serves as president of the campus chapter for Habitat for Humanity helping to augment affordable housing supply; and serves as president of “Kids are Scientists Too” which supports applied STEM learning in local elementary and middle schools, helping students envision careers in various STEM fields. An avid researcher, Dhairya has served for the last two years as a Social Strategy and Impact Team Intern with Atrium Health, Charlotte’s non-profit healthcare network, where he helped create the infrastructure needed to evaluate resource needs and support structures among community partners. He has also been engaged as an undergraduate research assistant working on projects seeking to improve outcomes for asthma patients, to better understand the chemistry of disease states such as cancer and neurodegeneration, and to enhance water purification techniques and identify newly emerging contaminants.

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides these students with learning and networking opportunities that help to nurture their development as civic leaders. Programming emphasizes personal, professional, and civic growth that can empower them to collaborate effectively across disciplines and create large-scale positive change.

The cornerstone of the fellowship is the Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows, which offers intensive in-person skill-building and networking over three days. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive opportunities, including mini-grants to help fund community projects, scholarships, and post-graduate opportunities.

Whether in the lab, on campus or in the community working with one of the many organizations he volunteers with, Dhairya is already making significant contributions to the health and well-being of others. Beyond this, he is a dedicated servant leader whose positive presence and commitment to making a difference inspire and uplift all who cross this path.

“We are honored to recognize such an outstanding group of community-committed students,” said Campus Compact President Bobbie Laur. “One of the best parts of the Newman Civic Fellowships is the richness of students’ perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds—and how these varied stories all led to their passionate engagement with the social, political, and environmental issues impacting our world. These students will be the catalysts for change on many levels, and we are privileged to help empower them to create that change.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship is generously supported by The Allstate Foundation. Learn more at compact.org/newman-civic-fellowship. You can read more about each of the student leaders selected for this year’s cohort at compact.org/current-programs/newman-civic-fellowship/newman-civic-fellows.