Aparna Shakkarwar is a fourth-year, junior inductee to Phi Beta Kappa, graduating in spring of 2021. She is currently pursuing a double-major in Economics and Education Sciences, as well as a minor in Political Science. She was admitted to UCI as a UC Regents’ Scholar, received the Malcom Stacey Memorial Scholarship for two years, and is a current Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Fellow.
In 2019, Aparna received a UCI Campus Endorsement for the Fulbright Scholarship and applied to the University of Helsinki’s Changing Education master’s program. She is waiting to hear back from the university regarding her admission.
During her four years at UCI, Aparna has been involved in research in the School of Education. As a research assistant for a year and a half, Aparna assisted with two different research studies relating to early-childhood education under PhD candidate, Qing Zhang. Aparna is a current Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Fellow and has received funding for her own research study titled “Impact of State Preschool Funding on Maternal Labor Force Participation Rate,” under the
mentorship of Dr. Jade Jenkins in the School of Education. This study examines the relationship between yearly fluctuations in state preschool funding and maternal labor supply and Aparna hopes to highlight the importance of state funding in early-childhood education for low-income families. Aparna is interested in improving educational equity in the United States through research so that all students have equal opportunity to
Aparna has also been heavily involved on campus as a leader and mentor for UCI organizations. During the 2019-2020 school year, Aparna was a mentor in the Antleader Mentorship Program, an on-campus organization that provides mentors for low-income, first-generation, first-year students. Aparna has also been involved in music on campus and has been a member of UCI Chamber Singers, the audition-based choir in the Music
Department, for all four years at UCI. For the past two years, Aparna has also been Vice President of UCI Chamber Singers and is the current Co-Captain and Co-Music Director of UCI Andaaz A Cappella, leadership positions that have allowed her to express creativity through music, while leading a group of singers to be the best musicians possible.
Aparna is fortunate to have been an active member of the UCI community and looks forward to taking her research and leadership skills with her after she graduates in June.
1) If we ask one of your friends to describe you, what would they say?
My friends would describe me as a driven and passionate person who is dedicated to making the world a better place for people of color and other disadvantaged communities. They would describe my empathy and how I am always willing to be a shoulder to lean on for my friends and family. They would say I set high standards for myself and always put myself out there because I am not afraid of failure.
2) What life events or personal mentorships, if any, directed you to the field of study you have chosen for your future endeavors?
I came into UCI as an undeclared major, not sure what I wanted to pursue. However, I became interested in equity within the education system and took my first education class, Education 147: Poverty, Education, and Social Change, to learn more about this issue. This class was taught by Dr. Jade Jenkins, who became a mentor to me as I decided to pursue research on campus. Learning more about the inequity that exists in the American education system for low-income students and students of color, I
discovered my passion for this issue and decided I wanted to pursue a career in research to help improve opportunities for disadvantaged students. I am especially grateful for Dr. Diane Nevárez, a constant advocate for students of color being educated in the United States, as she helped me further discover the importance of culture and identity for these students.
3) How and why did you choose the Fulbright Scholarship opportunity and what was your experience like working under the tutelage of your SOP advisor?
I chose the Fulbright Scholarship because it allowed me the flexibility to choose the university that was the best fit for my long-term goals. I chose to apply for the Fulbright-University of Helsinki Graduate Award, where I chose the master’s in Changing Education. This program focuses on diversity and social justice in education, which is one of few master’s programs that aligns with my research interests. I was very fortunate to work with SOP advisor, Brendan Park, whose advice and dedication helped me submit an application that best reflected who I am and my goals. His support helped take some of the stress out of the process and I am very grateful for his mentorship and guidance.
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