There are few people who could say they’ve squeezed more into their four years of college than Shreya Daniel.
She’s a student ambassador at the USC Admission Center, the director of camp programming for Troy Camp, a research assistant in the Innovations in Neurodevelopment and Sensory Processing Research Lab with the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, and a tutor in undergraduate physics. Not to mention, she started her own nonprofit, More Good Ahead, while on the pre-med track.
To cap it all off, this week Daniel will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in health and human sciences with an occupational science minor from USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences — and as one of two salutatorians for the Class of 2022.
“At USC, not only is it possible to do all of these things, but it’s encouraged — it’s the culture and the norm, and what makes USC so special,” Daniel said.
Originally from Chicago, Daniel said she didn’t always think her path would bring her to USC, or that she would go into medicine. Daniel joked that her mother’s side of the family are all doctors — except her mother.
“She was like the crazy black sheep who went on to be a lawyer,” Daniel said.
USC 2022 salutatorian was drawn to USC. Her sister? Not quite …
Despite her initial resistance to the family tradition, she ended up going the pre-med route when deciding on college. And despite having applied to 14 different schools, and with a sister attending UCLA, she said USC kept creeping up her list of schools.
Every time I would learn something about USC, it felt like exactly what I was looking for in a school — just a perfect fit.
Shreya Daniel, USC 2022 salutatorian
“My sister is the one who wanted warm weather, but I had envisioned myself sipping coffee with the fall leaves in Central Park, like that quintessential East Coast college experience … but I just loved USC so much,” Daniel said. “Every time I would learn something about USC, it felt like exactly what I was looking for in a school — just a perfect fit.”
Surprisingly, Daniel said her sister was all for the idea as well.
“Honestly, out of anyone in my family, she was rooting for me to go to USC the most,” Daniel said. “We totally acknowledge that when it comes to the UCLA versus USC, she wouldn’t have loved USC as much as I did, and I wouldn’t have loved UCLA, but they were both perfect for us.”
For Daniel, the real selling point of USC was the interdisciplinary experience offered. From music classes to dance, theater and cinema, Daniel has been able to explore all her interests at USC while staying on her career track.
“It’s not just that you happen to like other subjects, or you like when they interweave together, but that’s a real approach to education,” she said. “It’s important to look at things from different lenses and explore all your interests.”
USC 2022 salutatorian threw herself into every student group that interested her
Daniel absolutely took that to heart outside of the classroom, throwing herself into every student group that piqued her interest, some of which — like Troy Camp — she knew about before she ever set foot on campus. As someone with camp counselor experience, Daniel asked about the program when she spotted social media posts from the group.
“It sounds like it’s just a summer camp, but really the philosophy behind Troy Camp is long-term mentorship,” Daniel said.
Ultimately, she wants to be a developmental behavioral pediatrician, a specialty that primarily works with children with disabilities. Daniel acknowledges that the area is niche even for the medical community, but it’s the sole reason she wants to be a doctor. Growing up, her elementary school had a deaf and disabled program, and she befriended many of her classmates in those classes, learning sign language in the process.
“Fourth grade was the first time I really witnessed a whole community of people that are not being treated how they should be,” she said.
Since having that realization in elementary school, Daniel volunteered with programs like Special Olympics and Best Buddies and worked with the special education department in her high school.
“I just did a bunch of those kinds of things and knew that regardless of what my specific career title is, I wanted that to be in my life,” she said.
As with the rest of her fellow graduates in the Class of 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic upended the middle of her college career. She was “hitting her stride” both academically and socially, and as the spring 2020 semester approached, she had started referring to USC as “home” rather than Chicago. Then, USC — and the world — shut down.
Search for a project for USC 2022 salutatorian
One night, early in the quarantine, after a long day of binge-watching Netflix, Daniel decided she needed a project. She had been looking for an excuse to revisit her artistic side, so she began making jewelry, clothes and other pieces to pass the time. Upon seeing how the world responded to the pandemic, as well as the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, she decided to take her hobby beyond just a way to pass the time and put it to good use. Eventually she began selling the items and donating the money to various charities, and before long More Good Ahead was born.
That year really helped me develop bravery, and I never thought of myself as a brave person.
Shreya Daniel, USC 2020 salutatorian
“That was like the biggest passion project of my life, and I never would have done it if I was fully in school,” Daniel said. “That year really helped me develop bravery, and I never thought of myself as a brave person.”
So far, More Good Ahead has raised nearly $15,000 for different charities — The Arc, People Assisting the Homeless, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective.
Daniel plans to continue with More Good Ahead as a “side hustle” as she applies for medical school, which can be like a full-time job for most people. She’ll also be working as a medical scribe back in Chicago while she goes through the application process. It’s a schedule that might seem daunting, but Daniel wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Hopefully, I’ll also take some time for myself, take some breaks, rest a little bit — somewhere in there,” she joked.