Campus senior Hari Srinivasan, who currently writes for The Daily Californian, has been awarded the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans — a highly prestigious $90,000 scholarship for children of immigrants to pursue a graduate education.
Srinivasan has autism and severe apraxia, a neurological condition that impacts motor skills such as speaking, handwriting and coordination. He is described as minimally speaking — while he can verbally communicate basic needs, most conversations require him to use alternate modes of communication. According to Srinivasan, he is the first of two minimally speaking autistic students to be admitted to UC Berkeley, and one of few within all of higher education as a whole.
“When you are disabled, with significant communication challenges like me, and have faced considerable gatekeeping of opportunities (education and outside), your self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence is a leaky boat at best,” Srinivasan said in an email.
A psychology major and disabilities studies minor, Srinivasan will pursue a doctorate in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, where he plans to conduct more research in autism, he said.
At Berkeley, Srinivasan has already been conducting undergraduate research in the area of autism as a Haas scholar, according to Haas Scholars program manager and advisor Leah Caroll. Caroll said Srinivasan has looked specifically at how those with autism process emotions differently from non-autistics. In doing so, he has broken down common stereotypes about those with the disability, she added.
“It’s interesting that his scholarship is in itself a form of activism,” Caroll said.
In addition to writing more than 50 articles for The Daily Californian, Srinivasan is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Psi Chi, leads a DeCal dedicated to educating peers about autism and serves as a national activist for policy reform surrounding disabilities, according to Caroll.
Caroll added that despite his commitments, Srinivasan goes out of his way to help his peers in the Haas Scholars program.
“He’s been extraordinarily generous with his time and expertise,” Caroll said. “He’s taught everyone about different ways of communicating.”