Thursday, September 8, 2016

Spotlight on Recent Alumni from the Class of 2016

Mansi Prakash with local Brighter Today volunteers
Mansi Prakash (CAS '16) on the left with local volunteers
We caught up with a few recent Arts and Science alumni from the class of 2016.

Mansi Prakash

What did you study at NYU?

I majored in Economics with a minor in Math and Public Policy and Management.

What is your favorite memory of your time at NYU?

There are a few! I met very driven and motivated classmates when I lived in Goddard Hall my freshman year. They were all doing their own thing, which encouraged me to pursue my own interests. That community was really important to me.

I took several great classes during my time at NYU, with professors who were very supportive and motivating, and always offered help. When I started my nonprofit organization, Brighter Today, my faculty gave me feedback and valuable guidance. In particular, Sarah Durham, Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Administration, guided me on how to set up a nonprofit and helped me prioritize.
Mansi Prakash: her story continues

How did you come up with the idea for the nonprofit you founded Brighter Today?

When I was doing a project in high school, I visited a village in India with my grandfather, and I noticed that the villagers had light bulbs but they weren’t turning them on. That really intrigued me. I found out that their electricity bills were really high, which is why they weren’t turning their lights on. This meant that kids didn’t have the opportunity to study at home and women were cooking in the dark.  After doing my research, I learned that the villagers were using 60-watt incandescent bulbs because they are the most inexpensive option they have. They cost about twenty cents, but only last one or two months and are energy inefficient.

I spoke to the village leader in order to identify ten of the poorest families, and donated 11-watt CFL bulbs to them. The bulbs cost more, about $2 each, but they last up to five years and would reduce electricity bill payments by 80%. It was a pilot initiative to see if the villages would adopt the new model, which they did.

When I came to NYU, I followed up with the village leader and he reported that most of the village had adopted the new model of using the CFL bulbs to keep their electricity bills lower. The families I have spoken to shared that they have been able to save money to improve their quality of life and send their children to school.  Now Brighter Today continues the mission of using eco-friendly, energy efficient bulbs to help alleviate poverty.

What is next for Brighter Today?

Philips is sponsoring 100% of the costs of our light bulbs in India. Now we are looking for other partnerships so that we can expand the project into Ghana. I am working closely with a fellow NYU alumnus, Wemimo Abbey (WAG '15), who founded the nonprofit organization Clean Water for Everyone which implements clean water systems in Ghana. We are planning to partner in order to bring energy-efficient light bulbs into the communities that are already working with Clean Water for Everyone, since their nonprofit model is very similar to ours. We are also looking at solar panel options for communities that do not have electricity. 

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

People always ask me, how do you start? I think that you just have to find the right resources and people to help. For me, I attended the Clinton Global Initiative Conference and won a fellowship, which was a large component of what helped me found my nonprofit.  I also won the grand prize of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women 2015 contest, which I am using to expand the Brighter Today project globally. It is important to create awareness about your project, but also reach out for guidance. You can’t do it by yourself – you need the right team. You might face some obstacles on the way, but that shouldn’t deter you from your mission.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I am going to be working at Ernst & Young, a multinational consulting firm, this year, in addition to working with Brighter Today.  I see Brighter Today growing and having more of a global social impact, eventually operating in more countries. People generally no longer use incandescent bulbs in the U.S., and it would be great to see a similar trend happening globally in the next few years.

Arrion Azimi

What did you study at NYU?
Arrion Azimi

I studied History, with minors in Politics and Economics.

What was your favorite class?

My favorite class at NYU was outside my major. It was an elective in Stern called "Movie Marketing", with Professor Gary Faber. I am a huge movie buff, and it was enlightening to learn more about how a movie is marketed and how one can analyze and track box office success. It was refreshing to take courses outside my academic tracks and learn something I would not have otherwise. It provided a pleasant escape from my other classes, and I would recommend this to any student at NYU.

Tell us about your current job at Accenture.

I will be joining Accenture as a Consulting Analyst, where I will deliver solutions to clients and help them solve their issues. More specifically, I will be working with clients in health and public services, including nonprofits, government agencies, and healthcare providers.

What drew you to consulting?

I was drawn to the client-facing nature of the consulting industry, as I love serving people and work best when I work in conjunction with others. I was also drawn to the diversity of consulting. There are opportunities to work in a wide array of roles within a variety of industries.

What advice do you have for incoming NYU students?

I would tell incoming NYU students to explore different opportunities and say "Yes" to doing and experiencing as much as possible, and that it's okay to not know what you want to do with your life the minute you enter college. College is a great place to explore interests, and it's as valuable to find out what you don't love as it is to discover what you do love.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself pursuing what I love and aspiring to excel and grow in my work. I keep the doors open to business school, other masters programs, or a career change, but I hope to continue to love my work and develop as a professional and as a person in whatever I do.

Nick Sachs

What did you study at NYU?
Nick Sachs

At NYU, I majored in biochemistry. I chose it because it allowed me to learn the chemical aspects of biological systems, as well as learn the building blocks for understanding medical diseases and conditions.

What is your favorite memory of your time at NYU?

My favorite experience at NYU was definitely my time studying abroad in London. It was a great combination of meeting new people from different parts of NYU, and exploring all the unique and amazing things that a European city has to offer. One day we were trying one of the best local fish and chip spots, to another day where we got to see an England vs. Denmark football (soccer) match between the squads who would play in the World Cup later that year. I think that every student should try to study abroad if they are interested. Every year NYU expands their study abroad options to more programs by adding more classes. It will definitely be a phenomenal learning and growing experience!

Can you tell us about your current studies?

I recently began medical school at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Currently we are studying genetics, embryology, the biology of cells and tissues, as well as biochemistry (which I luckily have a background in). The philosophy behind beginning with this material is to have a foundation from which our understandings of diseases and the human body can build upon.

What drew you to medicine?

I was drawn to medicine from a second grade project on medieval medicine. I found all the old treatments for maladies to be fascinating and from then on, my passion for medicine only grew. I nurtured it through volunteer experiences and through acquiring my EMT certification. These experiences convinced me that the only thing I wanted to do was practice medicine.

What advice do you have for students and alumni interested in pursuing a career in healthcare?

I would definitely recommend gaining some clinical experience before making a decision to take the MCAT and apply to medical school. It is a long and costly process that I would not recommend to anyone unless you want to enter this profession. The great thing about the clinical experiences is that not only can it help you realize that you do not want to practice medicine, but that it can galvanize your interest and passion in the field which will make the whole process much less stressful.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I will most likely be in a residency somewhere on the east coast. At the moment, I am definitely more interested in practicing medicine and interacting with patients than being in a laboratory/research setting. I am not completely sure about what residency I want to pursue, but I am leaning towards emergency medicine due to my experience as an EMT.

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