UC College of Arts & Sciences Honors Program Appealing to Future Global Security Pro
Freshman Dhruv Maroo appreciates focuses on mentorship and immersive learning opportunities.
In Hyderabad, India, Dhruv Maroo graduated as one of the top academic performers in a class of 300.
“It was a small school,” he acknowledged, smiling demurely.
But he certainly made his mark there. Maroo was active in student government. He was vice head boy for his class. Tall, with a thin build, he swam and played varsity basketball.
Although he suffered a serious knee injury when he was 15, Maroo endured an arduous recovery process to come back and captain his school’s basketball team in two national tournaments.
And such determination made him a shoe-in choice for the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Arts & Sciences’ inaugural Honors Scholars Program class.
Honest humility. Global vision.
In our interview, Maroo doesn’t bring up his competitive triumphs. He talks about his participation in the school’s Model United Nations club. Fairly lights up about it, in fact.
He didn’t just serve as a delegate, either — he organized several mock UN conferences.
“My experience with these conferences, coupled with my involvement in student government, is probably what helped me narrow down on International Relations as a major,” he wrote in his College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) Honors Program profile.
True to form, in the short time he’s been on campus, he’s already joined the university’s Model UN Team.
Maroo is fascinated by differences in culture and how those differences play out in the geopolitical sphere. He hopes one day to work in international security — perhaps with a UN-backed organization, or with Interpol. And he’s getting help along the way.
Like his peers in UC’s inaugural A&S Honors class, Maroo was assigned a professional mentor whose work reflects his intellectual and career interests.
His is renowned cyber-security expert and Head of UC’s Department of Political Sciences, Dr. Richard Harknett, who in 2016 served as the first scholar-in-residence at the National Security Administration and US Cyber Command.
That, Maroo said, thrilled him.
“He’s worked with the Pentagon, he’s worked with 10 Downing Street, he’s an Oxford fellow and he’s doing something that I aspire to be doing in the future,” he gushed.
“That’s a huge benefit that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not been in the A&S Honors Program,” Maroo observed. “I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know which way to get there. He’s helping me structure my way.”
What interested a kid from Hyderabad, with an eye toward a career in international law enforcement, in applying to a university in a mid-sized city in the American Midwest?
“UC is a pretty famous college in India,” Maroo said, noting the large number of Indian students who come here to study every year.
But word-of-mouth only inspired him to look. The university’s academic offerings convinced him to apply.
“The UC course structure — especially in the A&S Honors program, with the chances to study abroad — seemed a nice fit for me,” Maroo recalled. “I don’t really like theoretical learning. I like practical experiences. That’s what UC will give me.”
Maroo is, “indisputably genius, razor sharp, intellectually engaging and undeniably thoughtful,” said Derrick Robertson, Director of Recruiting for the College of Arts & Sciences, who was a member of the selection committee for the Honors Scholars Program’s 2017-18 inaugural class.
“We were all floored by his uncanny ability to deliver a strategic and intentional explanation for what he expects to accomplish,” he remembered.
Like several of his A&S Honors Scholars colleagues, Maroo is perhaps most intrigued about the opportunities he’ll have to study abroad. He has been pleasantly surprised, though, by the close individual and collaborative support he’s getting through the program.
“The study abroad, the intellectual conversations, the mentorship and advising — that’s what we are in it for,” he said. “I think most of the people in our Honors class are in it for what they can get through it, not because of the title.”
It’s a different learning environment than he’s used to. He and his A&S Honors colleagues, “push each other to achieve things that we want.”
“They’re showing me more efficient ways of reaching my goals. That’s not something I had in high school and it’s something I really value,” he reflected.
“In India, a lot of our education is based on rote memory and not on whether you understand the concept,” Maroo recollected.
He feels like his UC instructors care more about whether he actually learns. And he’s more excited about learning now because his professors, he said, “bring more passion” to their lectures.
“It’s clear their aim is to make you a better member of society,” Maroo explained. “That kind of enthusiasm is definitely something I needed in my life.”
The value of a liberal arts education on the international stage.
Maroo thinks he made the right choice in opting for a humanities-based education. He believes he’ll be better prepared to tackle global political issues if he has a deep understanding of cultural differences.
“International relations is a field [in which] you need to know a lot about a lot of topics,” he observed. “A country’s internal politics dictate its external politics.”
To that end, he feels liberal arts training will be more valuable to him in his profession, because he’ll be better able to address the cultural motivators that drive nations’ policies and actions.
He seemed, to the selection committee, “a statesman for the ideal of global citizenship and for this College’s mission to prepare future world leaders,” Robertson recalled.
Although he seeks to affect positive world change, Maroo isn’t particularly ambitious. He’s much happier being a team player.
“I used to think that achievement meant individual accomplishment,” he said, adding that he felt he was somewhat adhering to a “be the best or be nothing” mentality that he sees as pervasive in his home culture.
“In India, it’s not about who makes a contribution. It’s about who makes the biggest ripple in the pond,” he asserted.
Indian education, he believes, is based on the concept that, “you have to be better than everyone else to make it in the world.”
“After the British left and we became free, we had to be the best at what we did. We wouldn’t have survived as a country. And that was necessary back then,” he conceded.
“But when you look at it from the modern world’s point-of-view, that’s not necessary anymore,” Maroo stated. “After I came here, I learned you don’t have to be better than everyone else. You just have to be good enough that you make a contribution.”
If you do, he believes, “you’re definitely going to get noticed.”
“Having the highest GPA doesn’t mean you’re the most successful,” he continued. “Someone might have a low GPA, but be excellent at music and, in the future, write a symphony that will be known for ages to come.”
Make no mistake, though: although Maroo doesn’t see much value in systems that value individual accomplishments over general progress, it doesn’t mean that he’s not driven to perform to the best of his ability.
“You owe it to yourself to put the maximum effort into reaching it,” he said. “Until I reach my maximum potential, I’ll never be satisfied with myself. I’ll keep thinking about how I could have done just a little bit more, just a little bit more.”