Volunteer Spotlight- Paruj Acharya



Q: What is your favorite experience as an Alumni Association volunteer?

A: Volunteering for the Alumni Association at the University of Minnesota satisfies my desire to remain connected to the University and be a part of its continuing evolution. Knowing that my contribution will positively impact current and future students of my alma mater is a humbling privilege that is very dear to me. I have volunteered on behalf of the Alumni Association formally and informally on many occasions. What brings me the greatest joy are opportunities where I am able to make a positive impact on even a single student’s educational, career or personal goals either through mentoring, advocating on behalf of someone or sometimes by just being an interested listener. I dedicate these successes to all the people who have positively impacted my own personal growth and continue to do so even to this day.

Paruj Fam 1Q. Why do you volunteer?

A. I volunteer because it allows me to fulfil my values of positively contributing to society by way of actively engaging in its betterment. Just as other people made an impact on my life, motivating me to pay it forward, my belief is that my contribution will also inspire others to do the same.

Q. Why would you encourage others to volunteer?

A. Volunteering is the most fulfilling-selfless way of transforming constructive ideals into actions. “Be the change you want see”.

Q. Share some alumni words of wisdom

  • Fail fast!
  • When things look bleak beyond relief, take a step back and relax, this has happened before.
  • In the long run, being yourself is much more valuable than trying to please everyone.
  • From my dad: “Try to focus on performing tasks with goodness in your heart instead of trying to achieve good results”

Paruj Fam 2More about Paruj:

My education, career and life goals are all founded upon my desire to contribute to society in a meaningful way. This has been my life’s calling as far as I can remember apart from a few instances when I gaze upon the night sky and wish I also was an astronaut.

My career has revolved around disability and healthcare for the 8 years or so. Prior to that, following in the footsteps of my parents who have been my biggest role models, most of my work and experience was focused on international development.

After graduating from Minnesota State University, Moorhead with a degree in Sociology, I started looking for graduate programs related to international development and that is how I first applied for the “Master in Development Practice” degree at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. However, when my wife and I decided to start a family and permanently reside in Minnesota, I changed my degree to Master of Public Policy instead. It was a little daunting to have to change career paths from international development to something broader in Public Policy at first, particularly once I decided to focus on Healthcare which was very new to me.

In order to make up for my lost experience, at one point I had two graduate assistantships, a full time overnight job working at a group home, an internship at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and another one at Minnesota State Council on Disability all the while attending grad school full time and having a new born at home. That stretch of about 8 months was the most intense I've ever experienced to date. My wife had to drop her own studies to support me through graduate school. Without her support and understanding, I wouldn’t have achieved any of my goals.

Paruj BikeShe started an online program at the University of Minnesota-Crookston last year to complete her degree. I can only wish to be as much support to her now as she was for me when I was in school. When I look back though, it was an experience that was crucial for the path I had chosen to take and it instilled in me a sense of life-long humility and gratitude.

As I explored the healthcare landscape through lenses of Sociology and Public Policy I realized there was much that I didn’t understand from a more detailed perspective. My education had geared me to understand high-level-macro-societal forces surrounding healthcare. However, the primary building blocks for healthcare in the United States apart from patients and providers are claims. I quickly realized that the data within the claims was equally important.

I strategically accepted a position at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) as an Encounter Data Quality Assurance Analyst where I first started to learn about the interaction between claims data and healthcare in general. After about two years at DHS I was recruited to UnitedHealth Group as a senior data analyst and since then I have expanded my knowledge of healthcare data quite significantly.

At this point in my career I feel like I have understood the dynamic between data and healthcare in America that I set out to discover when I first started. I am now eager to apply what I have learnt in the past 6 years or so on higher level policy and other wide-impact areas.

On a personal side, my wife and I have 2 children now, an 8 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. I am proud to say I see them internalize and practice universal human values of love and service on a daily basis. In my free time I love volunteering, playing an occasional video game, mountain biking with my son around the numerous single-tracks around the Twin-Cities and spending time at home with family snuggled up with our cat, “Tika” and dog “Snowy”.


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