Grover Gains Confidence Through University Residences Experiences

Photo of Devna Grover

Devna Grover, a senior double-majoring in chemical engineering and psychology, fits the definition of a student who is active in her pursuit of academic and leadership opportunities beyond the classroom. Grover has held several mentorship positions, assisted in the planning and execution of several University Residences leadership programs and serves as a research assistant in the School of Chemical Engineering.

That level of involvement may have been hard for Grover to picture as recently as a few years ago. A difficult transition to Purdue had Grover questioning herself and not feeling positive about her college experience.  

“My confidence was shot,” says Grover. “I didn’t have any self-esteem and I was just a broken person who didn’t know what to do.”

All of that began to change when Grover joined Shreve Club. Within University Residences, Grover says she started to build confidence in who she is and in her ability to try new things. She was also nominated to participate in Women’s Leadership Series and later became part of its planning committee.

“Both of these causes helped me build that confidence back up again,” Grover says. “I think a lot of people telling me to do this thing and having that confidence in me when I didn’t have it within myself was very important. They just looked for something and gave me a push to explore.”

In addition to Women’s Leadership Series and Shreve Club, Grover also became an ambassador for the Executive-in-Residence program. All of that involvement, Grover says, can be traced to that first positive experience in Shreve Club.

“That was the first chance I had to learn what University Residences really was like and that’s why I wanted to be part of it more,” Grover says. “The REC at the time pushed me and nominated me for Women’s Leadership Series. If Shreve Club didn’t happen, I don’t think anything else would have happened and I feel like that was a turning point for me.”

Women’s Leadership Series consists of several events spread throughout the school year. The series brings women students, faculty, staff and alumni together to network, provide support and learn from one another. Each event features guest speakers who present on topics related to their areas of expertise, share meaningful experiences and answer questions from participants.

“Women’s Leadership gave me a platform where I could just be myself and try to explore what that meant for me,” Grover says. “I learned how to build that confidence, how to voice opinions, how to have an opinion, how to be empathetic and how to make sure that you’re building other people up.”

As a member of the planning committee, Grover helped coordinate logistics for each event in the series, ranging from ensuring enough food was available for attendees to welcoming guest speakers. Grover notes that she gaining valuable experience in organization, planning, communication and leadership from her time on the committee. During this time, Grover says she also gained valuable mentorship from Elizabeth Hartley, director of alumni and donor relations, and Jennifer McPherson, former assistant director of residential life.

“There’s no doubt both of them are great leaders and I think that influenced me too,” Grover says. “Elizabeth has been such a good mentor by being that guiding light and helping me know that no matter what happens, it’s going to be ok. For someone who is struggling in college, I think that is a very important person to have.”

Grover’s desire to make further connections, meet new people, network and get one-on-one interactions with successful alumni led her to become part of the Executive-in-Residence program, which connects students to alumni industry leaders. Executives typically visit campus for up to one week and live on campus while they interact with and mentor students in various settings, ranging from lecture halls and residence halls to dining courts and basketball courts. As a student ambassador, Grover was part of a team that helped make each visiting executive’s visit run smoothly. Duties range from introducing executives to facilitating discussions and escorting them around campus.

One executive Grover says she made a strong connection with is Charlie Duncheon, CEO and co-founder of Celltrio, Inc., and an expert in robotics. The two continue to connect and have conversations via LinkedIn.

“He did so many things and he told me that, because of my psychology background, I’m probably going to try a lot of different things too,” Grover says. “His assurance and telling that I can do whatever I want as long as I keep my focus and work hard was very important for me.”

Coffee & Consulting is one of the key events of any Executive-in-Residence visit. These one-on-one opportunities allow students to chat informally with the executive about any topic of their choice, which was a favorite of Grover’s experience with the program.

“Having that one-on-one with the executives is an amazing experience, especially when you learn about their life and they learn about yours,” Grover says. “It’s an open conversation and that’s one thing I will always, always cherish.”

Another important part of Grover’s campus experience was working at Pappy’s Sweet Shop, which was a long-time campus fixture in the Purdue Memorial Union. She worked there from 2018 through the closing shift at Pappy’s in spring 2020. She has been a student employee with Purdue Dining & Culinary since her first year on campus. 

“I absolutely loved it,” Grover says of her experience at Pappy’s. “I made so many of my friends who have now graduated there. They were such an important part of my life.”

Grover currently serves as a research assistant at Crystallization and Particle Technology Systems Engineering (CryPTSys) in the School of Chemical Engineering, where she is working on processes to assist the production of a drug to treat cancer. She is also an ambassador for the Center for Advocacy, Response, Education (CARE), which provides confidential support and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence, dating violence and stalking. She additionally serves as a mentor in the Women in Engineering program.

While Grover is undecided about her immediate plans after graduating this spring, she hopes to one day work in the pharmaceutical industry. No matter where her next pursuits lie, she says she will go forth with confidence and a wealth of knowledge obtained from her experiences in University Residences.

“Everything I learned about leadership and being caring, being humble, becoming a more confident and opinionated person, and someone who can hold her ground are shaping me up,” Grover says. “I was a mind that could be impacted at the time I started all of this and I’m thankful that I had all of these positive impacts that shaped my mind in this way.”

Writer: Matt Vader | Editors: Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic, Danielle Fawbush

Editorial Board: Barb Frazee, Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic | Inquiries Contact:

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