Blog Post by ELP Student Sowandhi Bhattu (Computer Science and Engineering | Class of 2022) 

A wealth of opportunity but picking my few…

Two years ago, I arrived at my freshman dorm and was handed a list of welcome week events, one being Festiall. The event is an opportunity to not only meet tons of students, but also to witness the diversity at the University of Michigan. Most of my first year was spent exploring all the different opportunities available, it is honestly quite overwhelming. 

Aside from being able to go to the big house, the list can go on with over 1,600 clubs to join, various research opportunities to take advantage of and classes to explore in over 81 majors.  

Freshman year I ended up taking on research. With over $1.62 Billion in research funding and being ranked for research volume, I thought it would be a great way to truly be a part of what Michigan does best. There are many ways to become involved in research as a freshman including, UROP, MDP and reaching out to professors.

UROP is the undergraduate research opportunity program which pairs students with mentors so that students can work on a research project in an area they are interested in. The multidisciplinary program (MDP) is a way to be involved in ongoing research projects at the university where students are placed on teams that best fit their interests. I ended up working in both the ophthalmology and mechanical engineering department through MDP and the nuclear engineering department through reaching out to faculty. During both research opportunities I was able to meet other students at various levels of study, from PHD to freshman, as well as apply the skills I was learning in my engineering classes. 

Additionally, as a freshman I had the chance to take a variety of classes and explore various topics. One of my favorites being LING 103. I was able to explore and analyze language. I was even able to apply this knowledge to my core classwork (Computer Science) and learn the basics of natural language processing. It was interesting to be able to connect various disciplines and be able to gain an understanding of both sides. 

During my second year, I felt as though I had a better grasp of what was around me and what I wanted to pursue. Again, I ended up attending Festifall, but this time with an agenda. I had taken an economics class freshman year and was interested in learning more about markets and analyzing different industries. I figured joining some sort of business club was a good idea.

“Business club” at the University of Michigan can honestly mean anything. There are so many business clubs and the hardest part is figuring out what you want from the club itself. At the time I knew I enjoyed my research because of the application of my Computer Science coursework. So, I ended up joining Sigma Eta Pi (SEP), a professional entrepreneurship fraternity.

I came to the conclusion that the best way for me to apply my skills was through creating something new. Through SEP I learned more about entrepreneurship and what it entailed. I also learned about the wealth of entrepreneurial organizations and clubs. I also learned about ELP, the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program. The program offers students the opportunity to learn about starting their own venture and gaining the base foundation necessary to achieve entrepreneurial goals. Through the program I have learned so much about myself and more about what my personal goals are. 

With the understanding of self-starting and motivation that came along with joining entrepreneurial programs and clubs, I even decided to start my own club. I enjoyed the MDP research I had taken part in and began to understand further application of Computer Science to the healthcare industry. As a result, I started the Biotech, Entrepreneurship, Coding Organization with a few friends. Through this organization students are able to learn more about Biotechnology and work on ideas collaboratively by attending pitch competitions.

Through every organization I have been involved in, I have been able to create bonds with the people I meet. I have found friends in each one and believe that every individual I meet has a significant impact on my actions, thoughts and beliefs. 

Although I have only progressed through half of my college career so far, I feel as though I have learned so much about myself and my interests. It’s almost as though one thing led to another before I ended up with a vision of what I want to do with the rest of my life. There is an astounding amount of opportunities at the University and almost every student has a different path. There are just too many permutations to do in order to figure out how many different clubs and programs students can be a part of. However, once I come out of college, I know that my understanding of self will be well molded by the opportunities I take up during my time here and I am even more excited to see what the next two years will bring.