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Student supporter

As a member of the Dal community, alumnus Shashank Gupta was inspired to support students during the pandemic.

Why I Give

Shashank Gupta (MEng’17) can still recall the night he arrived in Halifax in 2015. While it is hard to forget the January snowstorm that greeted him, it was an act of kindness that made his arrival memorable.

“I knew absolutely no one in Halifax; all I had were the phone numbers of some of my classmates,” says Gupta, who moved to Halifax from India to study Engineering. “I took a taxi to downtown [Halifax] and asked a stranger on the street if I could use their phone to call a classmate. The stranger was so kind and helpful. It truly gave me a sense of what I could expect from both the Halifax and Dalhousie community.”

And throughout his time at Dal, his expectations were met. So, when Gupta saw an appeal from his alma mater to support students in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was that sense of community that inspired him to give back. “In my culture, when you’re a member of a community, you try to do what you can to help the people within it. I felt compelled to support Dalhousie students during these trying times,” he says.

“Thinking about the struggles students faced touched my heart. I knew this pandemic threw off plans and disrupted many lives.”

Gupta, who now lives in Ottawa, is just one of the more than 350 donors who gave to the Student Emergency Relief Fund. The fund was established to meet the needs of students who needed urgent and immediate support due to loss of employment, unexpected travel costs or restrictions, food insecurity and housing concerns as a result of the pandemic.

“Thinking about the struggles students faced touched my heart. I knew this pandemic threw off plans and disrupted many lives,” says Gupta, who shared that he and his now wife were unable to go to India for their wedding in April.

As a former international student, he also recognized that those students were likely facing a unique set of circumstances. “I can relate to international students who are far from home and how difficult that can be. You rely on the connections with your classmates, friends and professors to deal with the isolation you sometimes face. But the pandemic took away those connections.”

Knowing that, he, collectively with other donors, was able to make a difference to 1,100 students in need is a rewarding feeling, he says, and ultimately, he sees it as a way to show his own gratitude. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of this community. I’m in a position to give back because of my education. Helping students in need is my way of returning to Dal and its people what it gave to me.”