Chetan Chowdhry’s experience as a UCI undergraduate changed dramatically his sophomore year, when he enlisted in the campus’s Alternative Break program and spent a week helping restore habitat in Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Seeing his fellow students perform “good work” proved so gratifying, he began finding all kinds of ways to help others – instead of “staying at home, wasting time in front of the TV.” Now in his fourth year, Chowdhry has devoted much of his time to service activities, earning him the student Living Our Values Award for fall 2007.

“Chetan takes full advantage of the opportunity to make an impact and create change,” writes Darlene Esparza, acting director of the UCI Center for Service in Action (formerly the volunteer center), in her Living Our Values nomination letter. “No matter what he takes on, he’s always fully committed, engaged and appreciative. His desire to help others learn, lead and grow is a direct reflection of his character.”

Chowdhry volunteered as a Service in Action intern and became assistant director of the center’s Alternative Break program, in which students skip their usual fun-filled vacations to lend others a hand. (The program recently expanded to include winter break; students kept a blog of their latest project, helping the needy in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.) Chowdhry spent last year’s spring break working with homeless youth in San Diego. He also helped develop a leadership course for the program, assisted in recruiting guest speakers and presenters, and organizing a weeklong service project.

“At this university, if you’re making your own success without giving back, there’s something missing,” he says.

Chowdhry works as co-leader of the Career Center’s peer consultant program and a peer advisor in the School of Social Sciences academic counseling office. He’s also a Student Center board member, co-coordinator of the Passport to Leadership program, past Safe Zone committee member and Cross-Cultural Center intern. Why does he volunteer so much?

“I’m constantly striving to learn about diversity and social justice, and I want to give back to the UCI community in any way I can,” he says.

Chowdhry, a political science and environmental & analysis design major, plans to apply to graduate school and pursue a career in higher education. He’d like to work at a university as director of a service or multicultural center.

“Chetan may not be the most outspoken person, but he definitely spends his energy on listening and trying to understand people. He respectfully voices his opinion when necessary, and provides important and valuable feedback,” Esparza writes. “He’s well deserving of the Living Our Values Award. He’s created several long-lasting relationships, programs and services on campuses and within the community that demonstrate each and every value.”