Student and Alumni News

Neeru Bhagirath ’20 (City College) adopted community service as a part of her everyday life from an early age. When she wasn’t hiking, photographing, and exploring nature in Orange County in upstate New York, she was heavily involved with the Greater Newburgh chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

“I became invested in my sophomore year, and it was really impactful to work on home building projects for people who needed a helping hand,” says Bhagirath, a biotechnology major and a double minor in computer science and psychology. “Often, the builds were benefitting people living with disabilities, or those who’d had a life-changing event, like a fire or a sudden loss of a parent.”

These days, Bhagirath runs the Habitat for Humanity chapter at Macaulay—CUNY’s first-ever campus chapter, which was opened in 2014—as the president and building coordinator.

“I schedule the builds and coordinate with the other eight campuses in the CUNY system to gather volunteers,” says Bhagirath. “Our builds are usually in the tri-state area—we did a lot of work helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and Irene, for example. But we also arrange alternative spring break trips where we travel to help people in other communities—we recently went to Colorado and are hoping to travel to Florida this year.”

And Bhagirath’s outreach efforts don’t end there. She is also a member of the William R. Kenan Scholars Program at Macaulay, which sponsors outstanding students who have demonstrated an early commitment to service and civic engagement.

Through Kenan Scholars funding, Bhagirath traveled to Quito, Ecuador, and worked with nonprofit NGO UBECI to offer daily education for the children of local marketplace workers. She also spent time in Galapagos teaching elementary through high school aged children English.

“The Kenan Scholars program underlines the idea that there’s a world beyond your own,” explains Bhagirath. “Through these trips, I was able to gain some experience working with children and make some fulfilling connections with families. I still stay in touch with some of my students!”

In the future, Bhagirath intends to continue on to medical school and go into pediatrics. While she’s not sure which field is the right one for her, she’s leaning toward oncology because of her recent internship at Weill Cornell working with augmented and virtual reality techniques to help cancer patients better understand their disease.