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UC student discovers passion through undergraduate research

Prateek Srivastava, at the age of 20, graduates with dual majors, dual minors and his sights set on the highest post at the United Nations

Prateek Srivastava arrived at the University of Cincinnati without much in the way of a plan.

Arriving as a 16-year-old freshman, Srivastava had obviously been an excellent student in his hometown of Jabalpur, India. But aside from selecting journalism as a major, he didn’t know how he wanted to spend his time at UC.

Srivastava graduates as part of UC’s spring 2019 undergraduate Commencement class with double majors in journalism and international affairs, as well as double minors in political science and communication. Along the way, he’s had several academic articles published, presented his research at conferences around the globe and even published a book.

A young man in a suit speaks with two women in business clothes, one on either side of him.

Prateek Srivastava, center, socializes with faculty members at the 2019 Experience-Based Learning Achievement Awards. Srivastava was presented with the Undergraduate Research Award at the event.

For Srivastava, going from rudderless to laser-focused happened in one jaw-dropping instant in an international politics and history class during the winter semester of his freshman year: He learned that he’d come halfway around the globe to learn something new about the history of his home.

“In one module, there was this one essay, and one paragraph of the essay had three or four lines about this Indian immigration crisis which happened back in the 1830s or 1840s,” Srivastava recalls. “I had never heard of this in India, and I was a person who focused a lot on the social sciences and history. Also, some of my friends were majoring in these subjects, and they didn’t know a thing.”

Srivastava had to know more. He wrote an essay on the crisis, which had been fueled by the English colonial system of indentured servitude and dispersed Indians to East Africa, Southern Africa and the Caribbean. His professor suggested he develop the essay into a research paper. That led him to cross paths with assistant professor Megan Lamkin, program director for undergraduate research with the division of Experience-Based Learning and Career Education.

A young man in a suit with a woman

Prateek Srivastava and assistant professor Megan Lamkin, program director for undergraduate research

“When I met him, I was impressed with and moved by his enthusiasm,” Lamkin says. Srivastava had stumbled onto what Lamkin refers to as the “hidden curriculum,” the aspect of learning that goes beyond the classroom syllabus and textbooks. “Being able to explore, research and ask questions that haven’t been adequately answered previously can be incredibly rewarding.”

UC is the birthplace of cooperative education, and is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation and impact. UC's initiative to reimagine experiential learning, called Co-op 2.0, is a key component of the university's strategic direction, Next Lives Here.

Srivastava went on to publish his first research paper, and everything snowballed from there. He trotted the globe giving presentations on his discoveries. When Srivastava presented at a research convention in Budapest, an attendee suggested to him that he develop his work into a book. “Identity and Diaspora: Practices of migration, religion, ethnicity and culture in South Asia” is now available on Amazon in India, and Srivastava says the reception from the academic community in his home country has been good.

“I felt as an Indian citizen that people from my community should know about this. This is an immigration that we should talk about,” says Srivastava. “There are people in Africa and the Pacific islands who speak the same language and practice the same religion as I do, and there’s a reason to it.”

 

My ultimate dream job is being secretary-general of the United Nations. I know it's a big, big dream, but it doesn't hurt to have a dream, I think.

Prateek Srivastava

Once he’d developed a taste for research, Srivastava immersed himself in it. In addition to writing and publishing more research articles of his own, he joined UC’s Research and Creative Opportunities Network, or ReCON, an undergraduate student organization. “He came into ReCON with so much genuine passion for helping students,” says Lamkin, the organization’s faculty advisor, “especially in the arts, humanities and social science disciplines. Most members  are from natural and medical sciences. Prateek’s enthusiasm for inspiring students in social sciences and humanities disciplines to pursue research has been a real gift.”

Srivastava is passionate about helping others, and he’s not taking any time off after graduation. After spending the summer in Thailand teaching refugee children about math and English, he’ll head to Belgium to pursue his master’s degree in political science at KU Leuven, focusing on global diplomacy, migration and religious politics in South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. He already plans to pursue a doctorate. But that’s just the beginning.

“My ultimate dream job is being secretary-general of the United Nations,” he says. “I know it’s a big, big dream, but it doesn’t hurt to have a dream, I think.”

Prateek Srivastava speaks at a podium

Featured Image (top): Prateek Srivastava with his recently published new book, "Identity and Diaspora." All photos Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Discover your passion

Students who are interested in doing research have incredible opportunities at the University of Cincinnati, a Research I institution. The UC Office of Undergraduate Research develops resources and systems that connect undergraduate students to research experiences, prepares them for success, and celebrates their achievements. Learn more.