The Gift of Giving: Learn How Purdue Graduate Students are Enhancing Their Graduate School Experience Through Giving Back to the Community

Alka Tiwari, Purdue Graduate Student Alka Tiwari, NASA Fellow, Purdue Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering, and Community Team Chair for the Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG)

Alka Tiwari, a NASA Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering, knows firsthand how fulfilling it can be to give back. “The sense of giving back and helping the community is one of the riches I count. Seeing and feeling the smile and contentment after every event is so fulfilling to me,” said Alka. Alka is the Community Team Chair for the Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG). Each year, she and her team organize community engagement activities for Purdue graduate students to give back to the Greater Lafayette area.

Alka’s journey to PGSG started with some self-reflection, “I knew I got too involved in my research and cared nothing about what’s going on around me, like most graduate students. So, I needed a place or organization to balance myself…” Eventually, she was elected as Community Team Chair, where she saw an opportunity to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds, plan events for fellow graduate students to help them engage with their community, and play a role in improving the lives of Purdue graduate students through legislation. “[This role] brings me a sense of responsibility and helps me understand how organizations work, which I believe is extremely helpful for my future career…,” shared Alka, “It has helped me build an immense sense of respect for other peoples’ way of doing things…”

Alka and her PGSG Community Team work together to plan numerous community events throughout the year. “We have organized multiple volunteer activities through organizations like Grow Local Lafayette, Opening Mind Through Arts (Westminster Village), Lafayette Symphony, Food Finders, Ace Pantry, Winterization, etc. We always seek activities which are conducive for grad students to integrate a sense of giving/reverence/service.” Shared Alka, “We organized giveaways and other fun, engaging events like Sip-n-Paint, Baking and Ice-cream Night, Zumba, Cat-café, League of Legend watch party, Grad Social, and Shout-it-out. All these activities center on building a sense of camaraderie among grad students and help them live a better life outside their lab/laptop.” PGSG also hosts a Literary Club, which allows fellow students to meet every Saturday and discuss literary works from around the globe, exploring different eras. 

When asked about her most notable memory from participating in community engagement activities this school year, Alka said, “Well, there are several. The most recent memory was related to our Winterization event. The Community Team of PGSG volunteered to help people prepare their homes for winter…It was enriching to see the students who had just joined Purdue recently, coming out in the winter to explore the local life (which is very different for some of them who grew up in different nations), interacting and having fun. I’ll also never forget the feedback that I receive from students, especially after Mental Health Awareness Week.  Students shared how helpful it was that they had a venue to come together and do some fun activities like baking and making ice cream… In a few words, [this experience] has made me more grateful and patient.”

Photo Caption: PGSG Participants in the 2022 Winterization Event

This spring, the group is kicking off their volunteer activity at Westminster Village, a local senior living community, where they will make art with residents through the “Opening Mind Through Arts (OMA)” initiative. Alka’s team also plans to host “Research-O-Rama” on March 3, 2023, an initiative that provides graduate students with a platform to share their research with the Greater Lafayette community in a fun and easy-to-understand manner. “PGSG acts and plans relentlessly beyond semesters. I suggest that graduate students participate and be active within PGSG for an easier experience of life at Purdue,” said Alka, “There is space for everything whatever you are looking for just come up with your ideas and do not isolate yourself… It has been great bonding with the participating fellows. The PGSG team is wonderful and the way they support each other is a blessing.”

To learn more about the Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG) and their community engagement, you can follow them on social media at @pgsginfo or email Alka directly at

Writer: Brittany Ledman,
Source: Alka Tiwari

January 27, 2023

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