In a candid interview with Digpu News, Gunjan Aggarwal speaks about her successful journey and what success means to her.
Gunjan Aggarwal is the co-founder of Learn with Leaders. It is an organization dedicated to democratizing Ivy League education for high school students across the globe. Gunjan did her MBA from ISB Hyderabad and is a CA. LwL incepted in 2020 and soon it became one of the most talked-about networks, especially in the student community.
What is your story? How did you get to where you are today?
When I was growing up, I wanted to study in an Ivy League college, but unfortunately, my parents couldn’t afford it at that time. I couldn’t form networks as quickly as I could have if I had studied abroad. That is what motivated me to build Learn with Leaders and break these educational barriers. We want students to form their networks at an early age, to expose them to different ideas, meet like-minded peers, learn about diverse cultures, and explore newer prospects. We want them to become global citizens.
We are excited to have collaborated with eminent universities across the globe and are presenting students with opportunities to explore beyond their academic education. Technology is changing rapidly. Our education system needs to align itself with these changes and provide more than just formal education. That is the ethos of Learn with Leaders.
The education space has expanded enormously over the span of the last few years. Were there any challenges that you had to face along the way?
When we started, we were clear about two things. One was that we wanted to democratize Ivy League education at an affordable price, and the second was to create a global network of students and faculty. Although the concept of experiential learning was not unknown, it wasn’t as readily accepted as a part of the regular curriculum in a traditional classroom.
Students faced pressure at school because of this grading system, and only the crème of the crème got opportunities to grow further. We wanted to give all students an equal chance regardless of their grades or abilities. As they say, ‘you cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,’. That’s the idea we followed. So, in that sense, we were not only challenging a conventional system but also a mentality which is often tough to change. I think that was the biggest task we faced when we started with Learn with Leaders.
What do you aim to do at Learn With Leaders? Have aspiring students and their parents understood the concept yet?
Learn with Leaders started with an aim to bring Ivy League education to students across the world, as I have mentioned earlier. One of the primary reasons why students shy away from Ivy League Universities is their price points. We are curating programs for high school students to provide a Harvard-quality experience at an affordable price. We have built a unique global ecosystem that connects faculty from international and Ivy League universities with students worldwide.
Since its origin through LwL, we have partnered with the Harvard Students Agencies (HSA), the Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness (CSDGC) at Stanford University, and Harvard Graduate Women in Science & Engineering (HGWISE). We also have collaborations with Debate Mate, Women’s Debate Institute, USA (WDI), Imperial College Speakers Club London, and Young Turks Business Challenge (YTBC).
Through these partnerships, we conduct various webinars, programs, competitions, workshops, and more for nurturing students in skills for life. Moreover, we have aligned our sessions with UN’s developmental goals to help cultivate these life-skills among students. Ivy League programs are no longer an unattainable north star for these students. That is why students prefer us over the competition.
What advice would you give to aspiring students?
My advice for them would be to find their passion and keep at it day in and day out. No journey is complete without difficulties. Despite all of that, the way one faces the challenges of life is what makes the difference between success and failure.
When we started Learn with Leaders, we had one clear goal in mind – the need to revolutionize education, making it more hands-on and linked with the physical world. We initially started with programs that were for Indian students since we are based out of India. Slowly we began approaching schools in other countries and were excited with their positive response to our programs. Today, our network has expanded to schools across 20 different countries, including Bangladesh, Singapore, UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Spain, Canada, Columbia, and Cambodia.
The reason behind our success is that we never gave up. No matter the challenge ahead of us, we found new ways to tackle it and continued onward. Our collaborations with other universities and institutes helped us expand and grow stronger.
So, I would say to be successful in life, you need focus, determination, and a thorough knowledge of who your audience is and what problem you are solving for them.
Speaking of success, what does the word success mean to you?
Success to me is being able to make a difference in the lives of our future leaders, problem-solvers, innovators, entrepreneurs. It is when a student or a parent comes to us and says, “You have given me a new direction or excellent work; my child has learned a lot from you.” We have many students who have written appreciation emails and told us about how they could apply the knowledge they gained through our programs in their academic journey and beyond. Many have even won awards in school competitions after having attended our programs.
When we hear these stories, we know we have achieved our goals. We don’t measure our success by how many programs or collaborations we have but how many lives we have touched and how many high school students we have nurtured. Every time we launch a new program, we are overwhelmed with the responses we receive from eager students wanting to be a part of the program. That is when we know we are successful.
What’s next in line for Learn with Leaders?
With Learn with Leaders, we strive to expand our reach and get more students involved in our journey to fill the gap between academics and futuristic learning. We are approaching schools across several other countries to include more students. We already have collaborative programs that promote creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, communication skills, leadership qualities, and more among high school students.
We want to keep curating programs that we believe will have a significant impact on any student’s educational journey. In fact, our plans for webinars, events, workshops go through a filtration process based on the Learn with Leaders’ fillers and skills we are trying to promote. Only when we think we can add value, do we launch any program.
Learn with Leaders is soon going to launch a one-of-a-kind tech platform explicitly aimed at high school students name the Global Students League (GSL). This tech platform will be a hub for data transferring and communication between students and faculty worldwide. We will soon be releasing the details for this platform.
In the coming two years, we want to expand our reach to every country and accommodate every student. We don’t want Harvard-quality education to be limited to a handful. With GSL, we will have a network that will enable students to connect with fellow students, explore resources to help them grow, interact with mentors, form clubhouses, and a lot more.
To know more about collaborations and programs, visit https://learnwithleaders.com/ .