In July, LSA alum Dhaval Mehta began his tenure as President of the U-M India Alumni Association. His rise to leadership came after a two-year stint as Vice President of the association, where he learned about the structure and function of the club from now-former President and U-M Engineering, alum Bindi Dharia.

Mehta’s new position began in the midst of a global pandemic that is completely restructuring the way we think about community and community-building. With these circumstances in mind, he created a detailed plan for the coming years in collaboration with active members of UMIAA chapters across India. His goals highlight a commitment to strengthening university partnership and alumni ties across India.

“In some ways, I think the pandemic has brought UMIAA closer,” Mehta said. “Meeting on video calls has become the norm. There’s no longer this pressure to fly out and meet for an event. As a result, our events have become more geographically inclusive. Personally, I’ve also gotten to know many more members in city chapters across India.”

Mehta explained that this increase in remote engagement will allow the organization to hold a virtual social event and webinar every month, with host privileges rotating between city heads. This way, attendees are presented with diverse industry perspectives from across the subcontinent.

Further, Mehta sends frequent pandemic check-in surveys to UMIAA members and is working to revamp the association’s website. In continuity with the tradition of holding a November annual event, he plans to organize a virtual alternative this year.

“We also brought some more recent graduates on board to help energize the young alumni in our network,” said Mehta. “It’s important to find accessible modes of communication for alumni of all ages.”

After visiting a friend at Michigan during his first year of undergrad, Mehta fell in love with the campus and decided to transfer. He enrolled in LSA to study computer science and economics. After graduation, he worked in finance for a number of years before partnering with another alum to build an education consulting business.

“When I was back in India, I was thinking a lot about education as a socioeconomic equalizer,” he said. “Educational disparities are even more apparent in a country like India, where the rural population is massive. You see it especially in the age of COVID: educational digitization has provided new opportunities and accelerated learning, but not equal access for all.”

“We began by working with primary and secondary school administrators in India--introducing them to our management software, which tracks educational outcomes on a class-by-class basis and allows school management to account for progress. This way, administrators understand the direct effects of their curriculums.”

The company has since expanded to work with schools and higher education institutions around the world to provide more systematic career guidance tools and services through an AI-backed mentorship network. Mehta said his experience at U-M has been a touchstone throughout his career. He finds that his job and his work for UMIAA have much in common.

“I love that UMIAA events and webinars--in addition to celebrating the experiences we have in common as alumni of the University of Michigan--act as educational and networking opportunities, especially for our young alumni. We strive to engage participants from across the academic spectrum, from Ross to LSA; School of Education to Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Engineering to School of Information,” said Mehta.

“We are attempting to deepen alumni engagement in ways that allow people not only to give back to the school and university community, but also, especially in the current global environment, to spread the message that we are always here as a support network in India. I look forward to working with the university and the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan to encourage recent graduates to join UMIAA.”