ASU graduate inspired by father’s cancer diagnosis to pursue medicine

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Navneet Kumar was in middle school when her father was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. It sparked a desire to learn everything she could about health sciences. ASU graduating student portrait Navneet Kumar Navneet Kumar. Photograph courtesy of Navneet Kumar. Download Full Image

That passion carried into a college career at Arizona State University, where Kumar will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Arts in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and a Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences from the School of Life Sciences. A Barrett, The Honors College student, she also earned a minor in computational life sciences.

When Kumar started at ASU, she intended to pursue solely biomedicine. But after taking a class called Poverty and Global Health as an elective, she found the subject fascinating and wanted to learn more. She added global health as a major because it provided a different way of viewing health — beyond diagnosis and treatment. 

She’s seen the factors that make up a person’s health firsthand. When her father received his diagnosis, Kumar’s family didn’t have medical insurance. They had lost both a house and a business in the economic crash of 2008.

Kumar said the staff at Mayo Clinic were extraordinarily helpful and offered assistance and guidance in additional areas of health.

Seeing the staff in action also inspired Kumar to get involved with the Mayo Clinic-Barrett Honors College Premedical Scholars Program. As part of the program, Kumar shadows hospital staff, attends special lectures and will receive help applying to medical school.

Kumar’s father is doing better now. After graduation, she will continue studying for medical exams, with plans to attend medical school and continue epidemiologic and scientific research. Someday, she hopes to be an oncologist. 

Kumar shared more about her academic experience at ASU.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: When I was first deciding what university I wanted to attend, a huge factor in my decision was finances. I was afraid of needing to rely heavily on loans to pay for my college education.

I applied to universities within Arizona to stay close to home so I would not have to worry about being too far away and paying for housing. When I received an acceptance letter from ASU, I was also notified that I was chosen to be an Obama Scholar, a scholarship program based on need and academic record. This scholarship helps to pay the direct cost of attendance for school, which includes tuition, college fees, housing and books. I was so grateful that I would not have to burden my family with loans.

What solidified my decision to attend Arizona State University was its immense variety of opportunities for students. For example, ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College has a direct association with Mayo Clinic, a hospital with staff that I look up to. It has been a goal of mine to be part of their Premedical Scholars Program, something that fortunately, I was able to attain this year.

Q: Did you experience a challenge or overcome an obstacle in pursuing your course of study?

A: Having to go home during my sophomore year was necessary for me to help my mom while my father was being seen for his recurring cancer. This also took a toll on how I performed academically. Furthermore, I was putting pressure on myself, forcing myself to overachieve in research and take as many science classes as possible to try to look like a competitive applicant for medical school. Apart from the overwhelming stress, I was beginning to dread and doubt my choices.

However, it was this obstacle that allowed me to set my priorities straight and learn to appreciate what I have done so far. There is always a moment in time that we will feel like we have not done enough, or just feel unsatisfied. I had to learn to overlook this, tell myself that I have done more than enough, and to let go of the aspect of “competing” against others and instead strive to improve myself.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My friends and I would study long nights together and order Domino’s at Noble Library to prepare for our organic chemistry exams. It was also just a great place to find other classmates and form larger study groups. I also have special memories of Noble because that was one of the places where I realized that I did not have to go through my hardships alone. I knew I had friends I could count on that were going on a similar journey as I was.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Learn to have an open mind, and that making changes is perfectly normal. I always thought I would begin my college journey with life sciences and end with that being my sole degree. But as I continued taking elective classes outside my major, I ended up falling in love with learning about health around the world and decided to add another major in global health. With time, I was able to try new things and gain new interests. You are not required to have your life figured out right away.

Taylor Woods

Communications program coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


ASU Law grad is taking a lifetime of rigorous athletic training to an aspiring career in sports

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

A gymnast starting at age 3, Heather Udowitch says pursuing her Master of Sports Law and Business (MSLB) degree at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is helping her apply years as an athlete to becoming a leader in sports. photo of Heather Udowitch After earning her ASU Law MSLB degree this spring, former ASU gymnast Heather Udowitch will be pursuing her JD at ASU Law, furthering her dreams to become a leader in sports. Download Full Image

She also learned something else very important – how to balance her life while staying focused on her dreams.

“I successfully completed my collegiate eligibility when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree (from ASU); therefore, this (time at ASU Law) has been the first in my life that I am not competing in gymnastics,” said Udowitch, who hails from Dallas, is a Sun Devil Athletics graduate assistant and will be pursuing her JD at ASU Law this fall after she earns her MSLB this spring.

“I started gymnastics when I was 3 years old, began two-a-day workouts when I turned 9, and verbally committed to ASU Gymnastics when I was a sophomore in high school. Therefore, the sport has held a significant role throughout the majority of my life.”

Udowitch says the Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business program at ASU Law helped her to execute the skills she learned in gymnastics and apply them to her professional career aspirations.

“Additionally, I have built lifelong friendships with my classmates who share many of my same passions and hobbies,” said Udowitch, a 2019 Selig Sports Law and Business Scholar and a 2019 NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship recipient. “Their support has helped me transition out of my athletic career, and I now view myself as more than an athlete.”

Question: Why did you choose ASU Law?

Answer: I chose ASU Law to pursue my Master of Sports Law and Business because of the numerous notable professors and advisory board members. This program offers courses about topics I am passionate about (that) are taught by industry leaders, so I was excited to learn how to articulate various concepts and opportunities. Similarly, the MSLB Advisory Board connects students with numerous sports professionals. I hope to pursue a similar career as many of these committee members, so I looked forward to having the opportunity to interact with them. Overall, the Master of Sports Law and Business program offers its students a unique opportunity to learn from the industry leaders while providing top-of-the-line networking events.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your particular field of law?

A: My “aha” moment has been an accumulation of events that have occurred throughout my life. However, there are a few key experiences that stand out to me. As a former women’s gymnastics student-athlete at ASU, I witnessed the leadership, advocacy and impact of strong sports administrators within Sun Devil Athletics. Their consistent action and support throughout my athletic career proved to me how proper governance acts to improve the student-athlete experience. Additionally, as a current graduate assistant to administration at Sun Devil Athletics, I have witnessed these same sports administrators navigate through varying situations and create opportunities for student-athletes and the broader Phoenix community. These leaders have inspired me to pursue a career in sports as I hope to hold a similar leadership role that impacts others.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Law?

A: I was fortunate to have worked with Professor Emeritus Myles V. Lynk on my published article, "The Larry Nassar Nightmare: Athletic Organizational Failures to Address Sexual Assault Allegations and a Call for Corrective Action." Throughout our year-and-a-half process of working together on this project, he taught me how to address my passions and turn them into an article that creates action and accountability. Professor Emeritus Lynk is a brilliant leader as his stature and knowledge inspired me to strive for more in my professional career.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those contemplating ASU Law, and those still in law school?

A: For those contemplating the Master of Sports Law and Business program, I would recommend gaining a better understanding of what drives your passion. For me, my passion shapes my goals in the short and long term, which then requires self-discipline and determination. In times of uncertainty, this ambition helps me take my next steps. Therefore, for anyone questioning their educational path, I would encourage them to stay focused on their passions.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be pursuing my JD from ASU Law. I have dreamed of earning my JD at ASU Law, so I am quite excited to be furthering my education at this prestigious university. One day, I hope to represent plaintiffs and work within a major university or athletic organization to help generate positive change.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I were given $40 million to solve one problem, I would reinvest in collegiate athletics to broaden opportunities for student-athletes as the pandemic has caused numerous teams to be eliminated. As a former ASU gymnast, I understand that gymnastics is typically categorized as a non-revenue-generating sport. Many sports in this category of collegiate athletics have been dropped throughout the past year. I sympathize with these student-athletes as they will not be able to complete their athletic careers.

My experiences as a student-athlete taught me numerous life lessons and shaped my passions for my professional career. Therefore, with $40 million, I would reinvest in universities throughout the nation so these institutions could reinstate their athletic teams that were previously cut. This would allow hundreds, if not thousands, of student-athletes to pursue higher education, compete in their sport at one of the highest levels, and prepare student-athletes with lasting skills.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law