Student Star: Shanaya Jaitly

First-generation student promotes food security and environmental conservation through leadership and service

Name: Shanaya Jaitly
Major: Environment and Society; Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
Graduation: Spring 2024
Hometown: Lakeland, Fla.
College: College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

“During my time at FSU in my first semester, I really came to realize that my academic path is entirely what I choose it to be.”

Fast Facts

  1. Academic star: Been on the dean’s or president’s list every year at FSU
  2. Loves travel: Has been to 13 countries and 15 states
  3. Concert highlight: Got to see The Weeknd live while studying abroad in London
  4. Favorite Tallahassee spot: Lichgate on High Road, home to a famous giant oak tree
  5. Pet lover: Has two cats and two dogs

Choosing to attend Florida State University was a natural decision for Shanaya Jaitly, motivated by a lifelong devotion as a Seminole fan and the university’s extensive academic opportunities.  

FSU’s diverse opportunities and vibrant campus culture strongly resonated with her interests, and the university’s emphasis on research innovation and student success solidified her choice.  

An invitation to participate in the Presidential Scholars Program provided essential financial support that helped her overcome challenges as a first-generation student.  

By participating in initiatives such as the Sustainability Fellowship and Food for Thought Pantry (FFTP), Jaitly has positively impacted both campus life and the Tallahassee community. 

“Overall, FSU provided an environment where I could thrive and maximize my college experience,” she said.

What was your favorite academic experience?

Being named a Sustainability Fellow during the spring 2023 semester marked one of my most significant academic achievements at Florida State University. In this role, I interned with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, focusing on developing the agency’s website and collecting data on waste management programs across Florida’s counties. By the end of my internship, I had gathered data for over 20 counties, gaining valuable insights into sustainability issues and enhancing my skills in data collection and analysis. Building on this experience, I collaborated with Laurie Molina, program director for the Geography Education and Technology Program, to develop a proposal aimed at increasing citizen participation in sustainable initiatives. It was great to creatively impact social change within an educational setting and apply theoretical knowledge to real-world challenges. 

How did your experience with Food for Thought Pantry shape your perspective on community service and social responsibility?

One of my most impactful community service experiences at Florida State University was with the Food for Thought Pantry on campus. Through collaboration between the Presidential Scholars program and FFTP, I contributed to the Beat UF/Beat Hunger food drive by promoting it across campus, collecting donations and organizing pantry items.  

In the subsequent spring semester, I worked with a fellow Presidential Scholar to create a digital recipe book to support students using the pantry, focusing on recipes using available ingredients. With input from FFTP’s supervisor and a dietitian, I helped develop over 70 recipes and launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about food insecurity and the recipe book. I also hosted an event at FFTP, serving 30 students and distributing the recipe book. This experience deepened my understanding of food insecurity challenges and the importance of providing practical support, fulfilling a genuine need within the campus community. 

What was your most meaningful leadership accomplishment or project experience?

I really enjoyed serving as an Engage 100 leader, lead team member and intern. As an Engage 100 leader, I facilitated courses, honing skills in public speaking, problem-solving and time management while supporting student transitions to college life. My passion for the organization led me to join the lead team, where I mentored other leaders, facilitated communication and organized program events. Transitioning to an Engage 100 program assistant, I played a pivotal role in program operations, leading workshops, organizing meetings and contributing to curriculum development. Overall, my journey through the Engage 100 program has been transformative, allowing me to develop leadership skills, foster meaningful connections and make a tangible impact within my university community.  

How have you made an impact on your community?

Throughout my time at Florida State University, I have had a variety of opportunities to make an impact here on campus, within the greater Tallahassee community and throughout the state of Florida. Serving as an Engage 100 leader, lead team member and Engage 100 program assistant, I facilitated student transitions, fostered an inclusive environment and contributed to program enhancements, which all helped to make a lasting impact on future students and leaders.  

My involvement with the Food for Thought Pantry addressed food insecurity through direct service and resource development. Additionally, my participation in the Breaking Bread Together community dinners allowed me to engage deeply with community members, contributing valuable insights to organizations addressing food insecurity. My role as a Sustainability Fellow empowered me to contribute to environmental conservation efforts statewide by creating a database of waste management programs, promoting informed decision-making and awareness.