Iris talks to Ronak Bhagia, part of UPenn’s Pike Greek Life Organization, as he outlines how his involvement has accelerated his personal and academic college journey.
What led you to apply to UPenn and Pike?
“UPenn has both one of the best business schools and engineering schools, and I knew I was interested in the interface between the two. The school is known to have one of the most well built-out programs, and its interdisciplinary nature makes it easy to explore beyond the major you are in. Thus, on the academic front, it seemed like the best choice.
Pi Kappa Alpha, specifically, stood out to me because of the opportunities to interact with scholars, academics, researchers and upperclassmen, as well as its diversity. I believe that the true Ivy League value comes from the campus culture and opportunity to network through organizations. In fact, around 80% of Fortune 500 executives have been a part of Greek Life, providing an indication of how experiences like this can tie into your career trajectory. And as both a person of color and the first in my family to go to college in the United States, Pike was one of the few spaces on campus I felt I could fit in and call home.”
Can you tell us a bit about the involvement in Pike?
“For sure. A lot of us, including myself, all live in the chapter house, which has about 20 rooms and provides a great social sphere. Doing so really helps me stay involved even when my schedule gets too busy to carve out social time. In terms of official involvement, I was the Brotherhood and PR chairman during this past 2019-2020 academic year, and will be Treasurer this upcoming year.
But despite being active in the chapter, the involvement is by no means excessive. Elsewhere on campus, I am a VP of Wharton’s Undergraduate Finance Club, on the Executive Boards of ThinkOcean and eMed, on the Undergraduate Assembly, and am a Consultant for Consult for America. So, I would say that though there is definitely a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself socially in Pike, it is never limiting to other potential experiences.”
How much do clubs play into your degree experience?
“A BSE in Bioengineering is definitely amongst the highest credit majors at Penn with a total of 41 credits. Add in pre-med classes and a 6 credit minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship, and I’m left with an often time consuming schedule. Despite this, I feel like the depth of my experience truly came from exploration outside class. It was through clubs that I recognized that going into industry completely isn’t something I want. Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club opened me to the finance world and Consult for America let me explore my interest in consulting, which is where I may ultimately venture career-wise.
A key part is to consider time management. I wasn’t the best with it in my freshman year but over time I realized the importance of scaling back, recalibrating at least once a semester, and figuring out what I truly value in my engagements.”
If you could summarize the 3 top skills you gained from being involved in Greek Life, what would they be?
“1. Networking: Greek life teaches you a lot about navigating the business world and forming long-lasting contacts. Indeed, the process of rush is pretty analogous to what one might go through during OCR.
2. Forming a track: It’s really important to learn about what you enjoy and think about both your college timeline and career goals. I do think Pike, through the opportunities to interact with upperclassmen and emphasis on development, reminds you to consider factors you would usually dismiss when constructing your journey.
3. Leadership skills: To me, many general clubs have the social aspect but lack the professional side, or vice versa, or are very narrow in their populus. Pike encompasses both, while also maintaining a racially, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse body of students, making the leadership experience you get within it much more translatable to post-college positions.”
Lastly, if you could give any advice to your high school self what would that be?
“Definitely, to be open minded rather than fixated on what you want to do. It wasn’t until my second semester that I realized business is an avenue I can explore. It is super valuable to understand and embrace the number of options you have!”
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