Student speaker Chopra’s message to classmates: ‘It’s up to us’

Focus on the path to the goal. The journey is what matters most.

That is the advice Karan Chopra has subscribed to all of his life. As president of the class of 2008, Chopra will share more of his perspectives and his experiences at the University when he takes the podium at WUSTL’s 147th Commencement ceremonies May 16.


“This has been the most amazing four years of my life,” said Chopra, who has successfully completed a rigorous pre-med course of study and will receive a bachelor’s degree in biology in Arts & Sciences.

“You can develop socially and academically here and find your niche,” Chopra said. “Although I have tried to experience all that WUSTL has to offer, there is still so much left to do.”

An ambitious high-school student who played tennis and took membership in National Honor Society seriously, Chopra honed a work ethic he witnessed at the knee of his father, a researcher in immunology who moved his family from Chandigarh, India, to Columbia, Md., more than 20 years ago to do postdoctoral research at Johns Hopkins University.

“My family has greatly influenced my decisions and my life,” Chopra said. “I am fortunate to have a good family life, and I am a happy person. I try to make those around me happy. I don’t complain about things, I just work harder.”

Chopra has put smiles on faces and helped others through the leadership roles and activities he has engaged in at WUSTL. He enrolled in the freshman summer academic program before his freshman year and subsequently became a program adviser. He also served as vice president of Wayman Crow Residential College in his first year and, the following spring, was elected treasurer of his class.

He has tutored students in chemistry, mentored inner-city youth and served as vice president of his junior class.

“Karan adds a humorous and positive attitude to everything he does,” said classmate Andrew Agins, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, both in Arts & Sciences.

As vice president of the senior class, Agins has worked closely with Chopra, contending that “his ability to be both a leader and a team player is what makes him such a good class president. He creates a motivating environment around him,” Agins said.

A favorite activity for Chopra has been performing in Diwali, the Indian fall “Festival of Light” signifying victory of good over evil. Chopra has performed in Diwali for three years and co-wrote and co-directed the 2007 production.

The sum of his undergraduate experiences has been nothing less than inspirational.

“We come out of Washington University as top graduates and hold the future of this nation in our hands,” Chopra said. “It is up to us to ensure that it continues to remain prosperous. This is a great country.”

Chopra plans to lead by example. In fall, he will attend the University of Maryland School of Medicine, working toward his lifelong goal of becoming a doctor.

He knows the journey will be challenging. A strong desire to help others, however, and personal motivation will help ease the way.

“I have seen members of my family suffer from illness,” Chopra said. “They came to the U.S. from India to get the best treatments. My grandfather has a cancer that came back after 11 years in remission. And my aunt and other relatives have traveled here for medical care.

“Things might have been different if I had seen medicine fail,” Chopra said. “But the physicians who treated my family were very competent and caring.”

Chopra hopes one day to model this care. “Washington University has prepared me for this,” he said. “I’m ready.”