Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2008 | News

Newsmaker: Athul Nakhasi

By IAM Staff
Photo: Danny Wilcox Frazier

Why was he in the news? In the run-up to the January caucuses, biology and pre-med junior Atul Nakhasi of Waterloo enjoyed unprecedented close relationships with national politicians — and potentially the future President of the United States. As head of the UI's student Democrats group, Nakhasi helped organize lectures and rallies for Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson.

The media frenzy began on October 3, 2007, when the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Nakhasi. Within weeks, ABC World News flew a producer in from New York City to interview him. The Des Moines Register, MTV, NPR, and the BBC all clamored for his time and attention. As for the politicians, they took him out to lunch, gave him autographed copies of their books, and generally, as Nakhasi says, "sucked up to me." In return, he expected them to pay attention to students' concerns about affordable higher education, health care, global warming, and the war in Iraq.

What's the big deal?

The politicians knew that young voters in Iowa had the potential to wield enormous power in the caucuses. "There are 200,000 students in Iowa," Nakhasi says. "Our generation can shape the race — we can choose the next President."

What did people say about him? He's been called the "Most Sought After Young Man in Iowa" and "Iowa's Campus Kingmaker." The editorial board of the Press-Citizen named Nakhasi its 2007 Person of the Year. Although impressed by such media coverage, his parents — both medical doctors — reminded him to focus on his long-term goals. A frenetic bundle of energy who works a room like a natural born politician, shaking hands and sharing jokes, Nakhasi plans to stay true to his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.

He doesn't intend to forsake politics, though. Like medicine, he sees it as a way to help people and create positive change in the world. "I can always go into politics after I become a doctor," he says. Then he laughs, "But not like Howard Dean!"