Student profile: Meet Nisha Verma ‘11
Carolina’s Center for Public Service and its APPLES Service Learning programs offer students myriad possibilities to become involved with the campus and community and explore their own personal aspirations as well.
Such was the case for senior Nisha Verma, who came to UNC from her native Greensboro, N.C., with a commitment to both serve and learn. Now, as president of UNC’s APPLES service learning program, she aims to take that even further. She says service has always been a part of her life, and she intends to commit her vocation to serving others as well—just as a good doctor should.
When Nisha arrived on campus, the first thing she did was find out where she could dedicate her energies in the community. “My first exposure to UNC was actually through the APPLES program. I moved in early before my first year at Carolina to participate in the APPLES Service-Learning Initiative, a program designed to introduce incoming students to service opportunities at UNC and in the surrounding community,” she said. “I was drawn to APPLES because the organization takes service a step further than many other groups: students not only serve in a community, but they also strive to understand the root causes of the community issues they work with through its programs. I became increasingly involved in APPLES over the years, leading a service-learning break trip, participating on the Service-Learning Initiative and Reflections committees and working as vice president and president of the organization.”
As a Public Service Scholar, Nisha says APPLES has been central to her personal and academic development during her college career and regards the organization and everyone involved as her UNC family.
When she applied to medical school, it was an APPLES experience that served as an important stepping stone in the development of her commitment to a medical career and formed the basis for her personal statement. Nisha led a service-learning break trip focused on American Indian health issues.
North Carolina’s Robeson County is one of the state’s poorest regions and is plagued with high rates of alcoholism, teen pregnancy, obesity and diabetes. During the trip, her group visited a traditional medicine specialist, spoke to the first American Indian pediatrician in North Carolina, explored an American Indian history museum and created a presentation about healthy eating for a local church.
She said these activities, among many, made her group painfully aware of the interconnection between historical discrimination, high rates of poverty and health problems in the American Indian community. It was through this APPLES experience that she developed a passionate desire to be an integrative physician who recognizes both the social and scientific causes of illness.
As a biology and anthropology double major, Nisha said she knew that service of some kind would guide her academic and professional decisions, now she is making it her life’s work.