These students have inspiring stories to share at Commencement

Neha Jain posts in cap and gown.
Undergraduate Neha Jain will deliver a student address during 2021 Commencement ceremonies Saturday at Boston’s historic Fenway Park. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Nathan Hostert’s expectations were transformed by his devotion to public service over the past four years. He became student body president while leading the first openly gay slate of candidates at Northeastern. He served co-ops at the city, state, and federal levels of government.

This weekend at Fenway Park, Hostert will be relating his experiences as one of the four student speakers at Northeastern Commencement ceremonies. There will be two undergraduate ceremonies on Saturday, followed by another two for graduate students on Sunday—and Hostert will be delivering his talk at the opening event Saturday morning.

“I’ve been thinking of this Commencement speech as an opportunity to celebrate all the accomplishments of our class, while also making sense of everything that we’ve been through over the past year,” says Hostert, who came to Northeastern from Wichita, Kan., and is graduating with a bachelor’s in political science. “I’m hoping to first acknowledge that the pandemic has been a challenging and heart-breaking time for all of us, and then urge that we use this experience as motivation to make the world around us a better place.”

In his eight months as student president in 2018, Hostert helped make Boston public transportation cards available for all first-year students and worked with the university to double the gender-inclusive housing spaces on campus. He partnered with Northeastern to roll out the Frisky Husky program as a catalyst for safer sex and the Swipe2Care program that enables students to donate their meal swipes to other students in need. 

“Over my time at Northeastern, I’ve found my passion for public service and grown into the person I am today,” says Hostert, who plans to continue his current work with the policy team of Massachusetts Senate President (and Northeastern graduate) Karen E. Spilka, an association that began as a co-op. “I’m excited to close this chapter of my life by speaking to the class that welcomed me, challenged me, and inspired me.”

The undergraduate speaker on Saturday afternoon will be Neha Jain of Sonipat, India, near Delhi. She finished her coursework in business administration in December (after a months-long delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic) and began her career the following month as a client services associate in Dubai for AlphaSights, an information services company. She has made the long flight back to Boston to participate in Commencement.

“I never got to say a proper goodbye to Northeastern and Boston,” says Jain, who with Hostert was selected from a pool of 29 undergraduate applicants. “I have had such amazing opportunities here and have grown so much as an individual, so I just want everyone to be able to resonate a little with my journey at the university—from the freshman-year jitters to co-ops to campus life. 

“COVID-19 has had a big impact on how we are ending our school life and beginning our careers,” says Jain. “But I want to focus on all the years we have had at the university, and just my journey through this rollercoaster of an experience at Northeastern.”

Gagan Dep Prabhu of Dubai, who has earned a master’s in engineering management, will be speaking to his fellow graduate students Sunday morning about the need for perspective and balance during the pandemic.

“I’m so proud to be a Husky and I’m very grateful for all my experiences,” says Prabhu, who was Graduate Student Government president and winner of a College of Engineering Leadership Award in 2020. “Even though some of us might be scared for what’s out there—including me—I want everyone to be recognized for their amazing achievements.

“Mental health and self-care is something we take for granted sometimes,” says Prabhu, who plans to serve as an adviser for Dell EMC after having a co-op with the company in 2020. “We tend to ignore the rumblings inside us, put aside our discomfort because we believe there are bigger concerns to worry about, or we just don’t have the time to think about it. I wanted to touch upon this concept, about finding home within ourselves and establishing peace with what we are doing. This is especially important with everything that has transpired around us over the past year.”

On Sunday afternoon, graduate students will be addressed by Muhammad Fitrah Pratama Teng of Ternate, Indonesia, who has earned his master’s in sustainable building systems. His speech was inspired by the “Many Voices One Northeastern” diversity campaign.

“I am one of the many voices that represent the Muslim community at Northeastern,” says Teng. “I want to use the Commencement moment to thank Northeastern because the campus has accepted me as a student here.” 

Teng has plans to return home to Ternate in one to three years to start an architecture and design firm with a focus on green building and sustainable development—and may eventually run for mayor.

Additionally, says Teng, “I have a dream that someday I can have an opportunity to return to Northeastern to pursue my interdisciplinary Ph.D. I hope I can meet again with the wonderful environment and community that has helped me grow to be a better person.”

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