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College experiences at ASU are life-changing for shy student

November 14, 2011

College is supposed to be a time of personal growth and discovery. But for Emilio Galan it was more like a metamorphosis, from a shy young man to an outgoing campus leader who has the world by the tail.

Galan excelled in his classes at Oaks Christian High School in Camarillo, Calif., but he had no idea what college he’d attend or what his major would be. His friends knew him to be an introvert. When Arizona State University recruited him to attend Barrett, the Honors College, they didn’t expect him to say yes on the spot.

Three years later he is one of the most active student leaders at Changemaker Central, an ASU center for students who are passionate about social change.  A senior majoring in biology and society, he’s the founder of a start-up initiative, honestHealth, having won a grant from ASU’s Edson Foundation to create a health care network for the uninsured. He’s active in Innovation Challenge and 10,000 Solutions.

He’s also one of the most visible and well-known students on the Barrett campus, a different young man from the one who enrolled as a freshman.

Galan is headed for medical school, having been invited to interview at Mayo Clinic, UCLA, Northwestern, the University of San Francisco and the University of Chicago. "As an entering freshman, I would never have thought I would be able to do some of the things I've done, and be where I am today,” he says.

Through Barrett he was able to shadow doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and participate in an intensive two-week program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., with the Barrett Honors College Pre-Medical Scholars Program.

“I ended up striking a friendship with one of the doctors who invited me to stay with him for two weeks in the winter, to see if I could take the weather in light of my medical school aspirations. Additionally, because of my interest in health policy and reform, I was able to connect with Mayo's legal counsel and the vice president of operations. At the medical school, I even met with the deans."

It was the Barrett deans who urged him to apply for the Edson grant. They also arranged an introduction to the former CEO of Mayo, who joined the advisory board for honestHealth. That individual is now directing his senior thesis, which focuses on the legal barriers to creating a transparent medical marketplace.

“ASU is an amazing place,” he says. “You get the resources of a major research institution, with the support of a tight-knit community like Barrett. I can honestly say that professors and administrators have taken a personal interest in my development and success, and I am honored to have relationships with them."

At Changemaker Central, Galan helps students network with each other and also with local business leaders, connecting them with technology, workspace and resources to bring their ideas to fruition. Galan says he wants to inspire and support other students to create change in the university, the community and the world.

Galan set out to redefine himself at the start of freshman year by being a more outgoing person, he says, saying hello to everyone, taking chances on new opportunities that came his way.

“I ended up rediscovering who I already was,” he says. “I’m indebted to ASU for that opportunity. If you have the drive to take advantage of all the resources here, the sky’s the limit. It’s all here for you.”

Written by Sarah Auffret