2015 Hira Jain Scholar SONNY CAPLASH

Asian/Asian American Studies Institute Awards $2000 to SONNY CAPLASH and Congratulates him as the Recipient of the 2015 HIRA JAIN SCHOLARSHIP

The Asian and Asian American Studies Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is extraordinarily indebted to Dr. Hira and Mrs. Sunita Jain of Glastonbury, CT for their generosity in establishing the permanent endowment that funds this competitive scholarship, awarded since 2004.

Twenty five years ago, NASA launched the Hubble telescope that would transform how we look at stars and Earth’s place in space. And while that initial launch revealed a “perfect flaw” it was corrected just around the time that the twinkle in his parents’ eyes resulted in Sonny Caplash joining us all in this galactic dance. Hubble showed that Earth is but a tiny speck among the many galaxies and its people may not be all that special, which can be a major letdown for some. For others, this revelation is a source of inspiration, a reason to keep looking and searching far beyond our comfort zones.

2015 Hira Jain Scholar SONNY CAPLASH

For 2015 Hira Jain Scholar Sonny Caplash, although he has excelled in both academics and clinical research projects, he is more passionately moved by people and their stories, connecting him to a vastness he is just beginning to unearth.

Sonny’s personal essay expressed the following sentiments that moved me:

Perhaps the greatest indication of my desire to be a physician came during my time … in both Cameroon and India with UConn Empower [a student-led service group Sonny helped to co-found] … I learned that happiness is more contingent on health than any amount of material wealth. Amidst crippling disease I saw sorrow that broke my heart. My dream is to deliver happiness, one patient and one community at a time.

Interviewing Sonny for this profile, we covered many topics (including meritocracy, risk-taking, and inspirational influences). When I asked him how he had managed to cultivate this empathic attitude, he almost seemed to apologize for offering the “usual story” of his parents’ unconditional love and their sacrifices for the sake of their children, as well as their example of good neighborliness and generosity toward other children. But Sonny fondly remembers his dad helping him to set up all sorts of “Bees” – spelling or public speaking, for one cause or another, starting around the time he was in middle school as a way to raise money, initially to help with education supplies for children in India. Those efforts “snowballed” and involved even participants and supporters outside of their South Asian community. Fast-forward to 2013 when Sonny finds the satisfaction from his childhood efforts at fundraising more profoundly reinforced and uplifted to a global stage through his interactions with Mukara Seta, the director/founder of A Better World.

Yet, Sonny points out with humility “how extremely frustrating these service trips are!” While he understands that he and the students who traveled with him to Cameroon made a tangible difference in the lives of the children at the orphanage, he is nonetheless, uneasy about the feeling of “biting off more than you could chew.” He elaborates,

you are there two weeks and you are exposed to all that need, and maybe you better their lives by .5% but it is clear that poverty is a system – not merely a situation … I want to do more.

Already admitted to medical school, Sonny Caplash is very grateful for the foundational preparation and socially supportive education he experienced as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut. In seeking to establish deeper and more complete connections as a physician who listens and learns from people’s stories, he will doubtless continue his journey of both doing well and doing good.

The Hira Jain Scholarship recognizes academically outstanding undergraduate or graduate students enrolled full time at the University of Connecticut. Applicants for the scholarship may, but are not required to demonstrate financial need. The Institute administers the scholarship and invites applications every other year (biennial). Awards have ranged from $1000 to $2500, and announced before the close of the spring semester it is awarded.

Contact Ms. Fe Delos-Santos for eligibility questions and application forms.

Profile/Photo by Fe Delos-Santos for the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute / CLAS