Shraddha Patel smiles outside the Cultural and Equity Center building on campus
Shraddha Patel is the first UofL student to receive the FAO Schwarz Fellowship. (Photo courtesy of Najmaamar Photography)

Shraddha Patel, a recent graduate of the University of Louisville, has been named a 2024 recipient of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship and is the first UofL student to receive this award.

The FAO Schwarz Fellowship, a highly selective two-year initiative designed for recent college graduates, offers a unique opportunity to engage with high-impact nonprofits in major metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. Patel will be working with Reading Partners, an organization in New York dedicated to fostering childhood literacy.

The road to this accomplishment was not without its twists and turns. Recounting her time at UofL, Patel reflected on the initial ambiguity of her academic journey.

“There was a running joke with my friends about how many times I changed my major. There was always a lot of uncertainty for me,” Patel said.

Patel ultimately chose a degree in sociology and an individualized degree in social biology after taking classes she enjoyed in the majors.

“I didn’t know where sociology was leading me, but I knew I wanted to take more classes after I took my first one,” said Patel. “My academic background prepared me to work in this field because now I have a deep and intricate understanding of social issues.”

During her two-years as a Community Engagement Fellow, Patel will provide one-on-one tutoring and complete a special project focused on volunteer recruitment. The work will be similar to an experience she had her first year at UofL volunteering with Decode Louisville, a non-profit dedicated to early literacy interventions, as part of a living-learning community.

“I really enjoyed doing that work and saw the impact in the students I mentored. That was what drew me to apply to Reading Partners,” said Patel. “It’s funny how things work out. At the time, doing that, I didn’t know where it was going to lead me and now I will be doing very similar work in the next two years.”

Amidst the excitement for what’s next, Patel remains grounded, acknowledging the pivotal role UofL played in shaping her aspirations for social impact.

“I’m very thankful for not only my professors, of course, who made their classes impactful but also for the Honors Program that provided me the opportunity to live with and be surrounded by people that have similar interests,” Patel said.