If the number of prestigious scholarships and awards for public service won by Kunal Malhotra ’07 are any indication, the Fairfax, Virginia, graduate may very well become a star in public interest law.
Malhotra’s dedication to public service has earned him national honors, recognition at his commencement, and a victory in the battle between energy consumption and the environment. “At the end of the day, you have to know you did some good and that you have had influence on positive change,” he said.
The 21-year-old political science and history major was one of 75 undergraduates from across the country—and the third UMass Amherst student ever—to receive a Truman Scholarship. The federally funded $30,000 Truman scholarship is given to college juniors who plan to pursue careers in government or other areas of public service. Malhotra was one of 10 students from his class of 4,000 to be presented with the 21st Century Leader award during graduation. The award recognizes students who have extensive community service experience, demonstrate leadership, have completed original research, and have succeeded despite difficult circumstances.
“These awards help convince you of the virtue of your decisions and wipe out some of the ambiguity,” Malhotra said. He added that they strengthen his desire to work in public interest law, with a specialty in the environment. “I’ve always loved the natural environment, and as a child I always believed the environment should be protected.” He is currently working at the Government Accounting Office, conducting policy analysis on natural resources issues. The next step will be law school.
Malhotra, who graduated as a Commonwealth College scholar, says he is well prepared for post-UMass life. His confidence, he says, comes from mentoring by faculty members, learning in special academic programs, and taking advantage of extracurricular activities. For example, he was a legislative director of the UMass Amherst chapter of MassPIRG and helped pass a law that now requires the state to sell the most energy-efficient models of 17 everyday appliances such as washers and dryers. The legislative win, he said, was exhilarating, giving him a strong sense of empowerment as an agent of change. “It felt great putting what I learned in the classroom into action and seeing how idealism has to face reality.”