How one student found his home at UC

Jonathan Raj ’24

Jonathan Raj ’24. Photo/provided.

Jonathan Raj, ’24, traveled thousands of miles to advance his education. From his home of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, he first went to Houston, Texas, where he earned an associate degree in science. Equipped with rapidly developing technological skills but limited financial resources, he then began searching for a university where he could earn a bachelor’s degree. UC’s co-op program caught his attention. His potential as an innovator and leader caught UC’s.  

When Raj visited UC the summer before his freshman year, the university stepped up to help him meet the many challenges he faced as a first-generation college student.

“I loved the place; I loved the people I met,” Raj said. “UC was extremely helpful in taking me through the visa process, helping me get the paperwork sorted out. They were much more helpful than some of the other schools I was talking to. And as a result, I ended up enrolling at UC in the fall of 2019.”

At UC, scholarships change lives

UC awarded Raj an International Outreach Award, a UC Global Scholarship and, most importantly, a prestigious NEXT Innovation Scholarship, which is part of a transformational academic program that reflects UC’s commitment to innovation on the national stage.

Now a fifth-year biomedical engineering major with a minor in mathematics, Raj has given much to UC in return. As a NEXT Innovation Scholar, he has worked on projects with corporate and university partners and has taught “design thinking” — an idea-generating methodology for solving complex problems — to students, faculty and staff.

Innovation + scholarships prepare students for excellence

“Through the NEXT Innovation Scholars Program, I have benefited from training in strategic foresight, an especially useful skill that involves studying trends in industry and society to find underlying drivers of behavior, and then imagining creative visions of the future that are grounded in research."

“I also have been able to learn skills that fall completely outside of my major. The core tenet of the program is interdisciplinary innovation, so I was part of a core team with an industrial designer, a computer science major and an English major, which was not a group of people I would otherwise have worked with.”

In 2021, Raj participated in the Stanford University Innovation Fellows Program, a six-week training course run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. “We met students from all over the world who went through the same program and were trying to implement innovation projects on their campuses,” Raj said. “We learned frameworks for design thinking and entrepreneurship, which are competitive skills that have really given me a leg up when working on engineering and other problems I face in group work.”

My time at this university has shaped me into the person I am today.

Jonathan Raj, ’24 UC student

Raj currently serves as project coordinator for the NEXT Innovation Scholars Program. His accomplishments in that role include having worked with more than 120 UC students to help New Life Furniture Bank, a Cincinnati nonprofit, find solutions to a challenge they were facing. Raj hopes to stay involved with the NEXT Scholars Program following graduation and to leave behind a long-term collaboration between the Furniture Bank and UC.

Raj also hopes to continue his relationship with AtriCure, a medical technology company devoted to the treatment of atrial fibrillation and related conditions. During his four co-op rotations at the Mason, Ohio, company, Raj worked with engineers and clinicians on design and feasibility studies during co-op rotations.

Raj is grateful for the CEAS co-op program, which has enabled him to earn money while in school and avoid taking on burdensome debt. He is also grateful to the donors who have supported his scholarships. Asked what he would say to those donors, he replied, “My time at this university has shaped me into the person I am today, and your contribution is a crucial part of my journey.”

Featured image at top: Exterior of Mantei Center. Photo/provided.

To support Jonathan Raj and other students like him, please visit the College of Engineering and Applied Science giving website.

Headshot of Amy Wernert

Amy Wernert

Associate Director of Annual Giving


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