As a freshman, Devarsh Desai wanted to be involved in student leadership but found it difficult as he adapted to life at the University of Miami.
“I struggled at first,” said Desai, who is from Mumbai, India. “It was very hard for me to get to the places that I wanted to get,” he said, referring to goals he had set for himself.
However, Desai, a junior biochemistry and health science major, did become involved in various campus leadership opportunities, including IMPACT, the annual leadership retreat offered to incoming students hosted by the Butler Center for Service & Leadership.
“It allowed me to force myself to be authentic and share my stories,” Desai said. “I also got to meet different people from different backgrounds. It really helped me establish connections.”
Now Desai wants to make the path to student leadership easier through a new mentorship program, Canes Ignite. In partnership with the Butler Center, Desai is on a mission to pair students who want to be involved with other students who are already involved.
The new program was launched this semester and just finished taking mentor applications.
“Every year that students come in they need campus leaders to help them on their journey as emerging leaders,” said Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center. “COVID elevated that need.”
Desai said he has long planned to start a mentorship program, but it was the coronavirus that pushed him to take action.
“The pandemic makes you realize that you never know what’s going to happen, and I wanted to help,” Desai said.
Desai hopes to select a diverse group of students with experiences from all walks of life for the program. Canes Ignite is set to be fully operational in fall 2021, with both mentors and mentees taking full advantage of the program.
“We’re looking for someone who is willing to help give their time to support an emerging leader,” Weimer said.