Velappan - Keerthana

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EC Scholars Class of 2017

Keerthana Velappan

Hometown/State: Cary, NC

Incoming EC Scholar Class (year): 2013

Major/Intended Major: (Major) University Studies with a Thematic Core in Children’s Hearing Studies (Minor) Child Development

Scholarship(s) Awarded: Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished East Carolina Scholars Award

Why did you choose to attend East Carolina University? 

I chose to attend East Carolina University primarily because of the Honors College faculty and staff, all of whom made me feel like I was more than a number; to them, I was someone who would be valued and cared for. Although I didn’t find out that I was an EC Scholar recipient until after I committed to the Honors College, that was an added plus because of the opportunity for study abroad and the chance to join 18 amazing members of my Scholar family.

What has your scholarship enabled you to do?

Without having to worry about the financial aspects of college, being an EC Scholar has allowed me to challenge myself both inside and outside the classroom. The most notable experience thus far has been spending the spring semester of my junior year in Singapore, the so-called “hub of Southeast Asia.” Choosing to study abroad for a semester was a rather spontaneous decision, one that would not have been as feasible or as convincing without the scholarship, especially because I did a program directly with the National University of Singapore. While in Singapore, I took three elective classes that met a total of three days a week and spent the remainder of my time with relatives and friends of the family. Of course, some of my free time was spent visiting countries in the area – Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Melaka/Malacca), Cambodia (Siem Riep and Phnom Penh), and Thailand (Bangkok and Chiang Mai). I also went to India twice during my six months abroad, one short trip for a family wedding and another longer trip to attend graduation festivities at the very first partner school of She’s the First, a nonprofit organization that I am heavily involved with. All in all, I could not have asked for a better study abroad experience or a more perfect program/location fit, and I highly encourage everyone to go abroad for a semester (or even a year)!

What special undergraduate research opportunities have you experienced at East Carolina University?

I have participated in a few different research opportunities while at ECU. During my freshman and sophomore years, I served as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for Dr. Lori Curtindale (Psychology) in her Infant & Child Cognition Lab, where I studied heart rate variability in relation to infant attention-al responses. During my junior year (and to be continued), I served in a similar role for Dr. Archana Hegde (Child Development), where I helped to establish an international faculty-mentoring program and plan international faculty potluck dinners. Going into my senior year, I am working with Dr. Andrew Vermiglio (Communication Sciences/Disorders) to complete my Honors thesis, where I am looking at the relationship between speech recognition in noise ability as measured by the Hearing in Noise Test versus the SCAN-3C, a diagnostic test battery for children for (Central) Auditory Processing Disorder.

What unique leadership opportunities have you experienced at East Carolina University?

I mentioned my club leadership positions in the previous question, but for me, opportunities unique to ECU have stemmed from the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement. I have partaken in a variety of leadership development programs over the past three years, including Leadership Odyssey, Alternative Spring Break, and the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy. The single best decision I have made in college, though, was attending the LeaderShape Institute, six days of intense dialogue and self-discovery in a supportive learning environment. If you do not do anything else during your four years here (which is hard to believe, but still), you should apply for LeaderShape; I promise it will change you for the better.

What are your career plans/aspirations?

After graduation, I plan on getting my Doctorate in Audiology (Au.D.), as I wish to pursue pediatric audiology. However, I would also like to continue my work in education in some way.

What extracurricular activities have you participated in during your time at ECU?

I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, so I have been an active member in only a few activities & organizations during my time at ECU – Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women (CCSW), Honors Ambassadors, Indian Students Association (ISA), and She’s the First. I have been part of CCSW for only a semester now, and so I look forward to being more involved this coming year. On the other hand, I have been involved with Honors Ambassadors (Recruitment Committee) and ISA since my first semester on campus, serving as a Co-Chair for one semester and Treasurer for two years, respectively. Lastly, the organization through which I found my lifelong passion is She’s the First, a national nonprofit organization that funds scholarships for first-generation girls in low-income countries. Having started the ECU chapter only in the spring of 2015, we are currently supporting the education of eight primary-school girls, four in Nepal and four in Uganda.

How have you made a positive impact while you have been at East Carolina University?

In addition to taking part in Honors College Service Day and helping out with Dowdy’s textbook distribution every August, the event that immediately stands out to me is the inaugural EC Scholars Schoolhouse Rock n’ Run 5K in 2014. I worked with a team of EC Scholars to reach out to Pitt County schools and establish points of contact, as well as to get the word out and recruit participants. Though we had only a month for planning and execution, we surpassed our original goal and raised over $1000 for the Pitt County Educational Foundation. In addition to the EC Scholars philanthropy events, I am a regular tutor with local nonprofits like Building Hope and Boys & Girls Club.