Arts & Sciences junior named Newman Civic Fellow

Recognized for her commitment to helping disadvantaged populations

Akhila Narla, a junior in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, was among 135 students from across the country named a Newman Civic Fellow for 2011 by Campus Compact.

The Newman Civic Fellows Awards recognize inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country and the world.

Narla was selected as a Newman Civic Fellow for her commitment to fostering connections that provide health resources for historically disadvantaged populations. She works on healthy behavior lesson plan development for underserved youth; projects concerning international maternal/child health; and health promotion in rural villages through economic empowerment.

Partnering with a Ugandan NGO in the summer of 2009 to find a way to economically empower disadvantaged rural Ugandan youth, Narla co-founded the nonprofit organization Crafts By Youth. The organization markets environmentally friendly recycled paper bead jewelry produced through the income-generating program.

The profits generated by the jewelry help the young Africans earn what they need to access their basic requisites for health and educational goals.

“I am extremely grateful to Akhila Narla for her outstanding work. She is very deserving of this recognition from Campus Compact,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, who nominated her for the award.

“Akhila’s project in Uganda is very impressive and stems from Washington University’s longstanding commitment to assist and support students who demonstrate initiative to help others. I am very proud of what she has done.”

Crafts By Youth was the winner of a $5,000 grant in the 2010 YouthBridge Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition, organized by WUSTL’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in partnership with the YouthBridge Community Foundation in St. Louis.

Narla and her Crafts By Youth co-founder, Preethi Kembaiyan, an anthropology major in Arts & Sciences, also received the Procter & Gamble 2011 Social Change Grant through WUSTL’s Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service. It is one of two $5,000 grants available to WUSTL students for domestic or international projects.

A Moog Scholar at Washington University, Narla is majoring in environmental biology with a minor in public health, and is on the pre-medical studies track.

She is conducting research using GIS to predict human Ehrlichiosis disease risk and, along with Preethi, will implement a public health research evaluation of the income generating effort in Uganda.

On campus, Narla has been involved in GlobeMed, an organization that enables students and communities to improve the health of people around the world; the Washington University Symphony and Chamber orchestras; and Ashoka’s Diwali production, an annual show put on by the South Asian Student Group to raise cross-cultural awareness.

Narla, who received a Morris K. Udall Scholarship for the 2010-11 academic year, also serves on the university’s Undergraduate Research Digest Peer Review Board.

Narla has worked within the St. Louis community as well, conducting outreach with the Saint Louis Science Center Ecology and Environment Gallery and the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

She served as a Spanish translator and pediatric health material writer for a free medical clinic in St. Louis.

The 2011 Newman Civic Fellows were nominated by college and university presidents from 30 states across the country. Through the Newman Civic Fellows Awards, college and university presidents acknowledge students with the ability and motivation to create lasting change through service, research and advocacy.

“These students represent the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders. They serve as national examples of the role that higher education can — and does play in building a better world,” says Campus Compact President Maureen F. Curley.

Through service-learning courses and other opportunities for community engagement, colleges are developing students’ critical public problem-solving skills, such as the ability to research and analyze community needs, a willingness to lead and participate in public processes and debate, the commitment to raise awareness about community challenges and the ability to inspire people to become part of solutions.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents — representing some 6 million students — who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.

The award is named after Frank Newman, PhD, a founder of Campus Compact who had an impact on American education and its role in the development of citizens who are eager and prepared to make a difference. He dedicated his life to creating systemic change through education reform.

For more information about the Newman Civic Fellows, visit