Gurleen Kahlon has always been motivated to succeed. She has set goals and achieved them at a rapid pace. In fact, she is planning to graduate with a criminal justice degree from SPEA in May, two years earlier than the traditional four-year plan. Yet her education won’t end there. At just 19 years old, Kahlon will begin her next pursuit: a law degree.
When she arrived at IUPUI, Kahlon set her eyes on an ambitious academic schedule, a wide array of community service projects, and one of IUPUI’s most prestigious recognitions: the Top 100 Award. The annual award honors 100 undergraduates who demonstrate academic excellence, campus leadership, and community engagement.
Yet Kahlon not only earned a place among the Top 100 Jags, she also was named a recipient of the William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion, acknowledging graduates who have demonstrated and excelled in their commitment to community engagement.
What was your reaction to being selected for a Top 100 award AND the Plater Medallion?
“I was very honored to have been selected for both a Top 100 award and the Plater Medallion. It felt as if all my hard work was being acknowledged and I was very proud of that. Top 100 spoke to my overall experience at IUPUI including academics, internships, research, and more. The Plater Medallion highlighted my civic engagement experiences in Indianapolis and I felt very honored to be selected as a recipient.”
What do these honors mean to you?
“I was quite excited to be nominated for Top 100. It was an award I had looked forward to since hearing about it during Honors Orientation. I am humbled to have received the award, especially given the experienced field of nominees. It was a great honor to be selected as a recipient for the Plater Medallion, as well.”
“Both awards have allowed me to reflect on my past experiences while inspiring me to pursue my future endeavors. While I have learned much through my volunteer and work experiences at SPEA, I am well aware that there is an abundance of knowledge that I have not yet attained. The Top 100 award and Plater Medallion will allow me to further grow at IUPUI and in my own endeavors. I believe I have the capacity, enthusiasm, and commitment to study the demanding course that is law and it is truly an honor to have been named among so many incredible students.”
What has been one of your most memorable projects in SPEA?
“SPEA has allowed me to create many memorable Honors Projects for my classes. In my terrorism class with Dr. Block, I am part of a research team developing a publishable paper on terrorism attacks against airports in South Asia. As part of the project, I have learned how to complete a literature review, collect and analyze data, and more.”
“I also have interned with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Marion County Public Defenders Agency, and numerous student organizations. Although this is only my second year in college, I am a senior and have worked my way up to leadership positions as a representative for the Honors College Student Council (HCSC) and as secretary for Alpha Phi Sigma. Moreover, I have received a certificate from the Multicultural Leadership Empowerment Program that enhanced my flexibility to work with people, improved my ability to multitask, and increased my leadership skills in delegating tasks to a team. Outside school, I volunteer at Beacon of Hope which strengthens my interpersonal skills and allows me to effectively communicate with victims of domestic violence.”
Why did you choose SPEA Indy?
“From the moment I entered IUPUI, I looked forward to advanced classes that would build my future, finding like-minded young adults, expanding my worldview, attaining skills necessary for law school, and being an IUPUI Top 100 award and Plater Medallion recipient. As I have always been curious about the legal system and why people behave a certain way, I decided to challenge myself with Honors curriculum in criminal justice and psychology. At the age of 17, I entered into the competitive atmosphere of the Honors College with a set of goals to accomplish and was aware of the additional opportunities available for me. Being in the Honors College environment is imperative for me because I am surrounded by students who are equally dedicated to education and aspiring to fulfill their own goals.”
“While creating a strong academic background at IUPUI, my passion for law and my curious nature led me to explore all that SPEA Indy has to offer. I have been involved in internships, terrorism research, honors classes, leadership positions in student organizations, active mentor relationships in the Indianapolis community, and multiple volunteer opportunities.”
What advice would you have for students just starting out in SPEA on how to follow in your footsteps?
“My advice for other students is to understand the importance of goal-setting. It is critical to have a plan from the start that ensures all classes help you toward your degree. The first time I met with my advisors, I wanted to make a schedule for my entire four years, starting with 18 credits and increasing my course load over time. I sought advice from professors and worked closely with my SPEA advisor, Debbie Koliba, to create a plan that would allow me to graduate in just two years. It is also helpful to build relationships with your professors. They may be able to inform you about interesting projects that would help bolster your professional and academic development. Networking is key and SPEA is definitely the right place for that!”
What has been your biggest challenge during your time in SPEA?
“My biggest challenge has been balancing my 27-credit hour course load with my outside commitments. Yet being involved with so many different aspects of SPEA reinforced my ability to manage multiple responsibilities and time demands. These tools will be essential as I continue to pursue a career in law. Each opportunity has strengthened one core aspect of my career. Being involved in research has given me a strong sense of responsibility and ownership. The volunteer events and organizations in which I participate have taught me to give back to our community. I have successfully demonstrated that I am able to be actively involved in multiple areas of SPEA, while maintaining a competitive GPA.”
What are your plans for after graduation?
“I have always had an interest in law as it is interwoven in the structure and order of civil society. There is never necessarily one answer, which intrigues me greatly. The description, evaluation and explanation of a case is fascinating. Lawyers have to consider the work of economists and historians, philosophers and socialists, and the like which makes studying law so much more appealing to me.”
“Finding a reputable intern position through IUPUI has been a key milestone in my ongoing career. By joining the Marion County Public Defenders Agency, I have been able to work on multiple cases and assist attorneys to court as well. I also have seen the power of victims’ trust and love for legal professionals which drove me to communicate with them and sharpen my own interpersonal skills. My curiosity regarding law has led me to decide to graduate early in order to enter law school at the age of 19.”