Vishal Aswani does not mind being known for his mustache, his passion for engineering or his love for sports, but he will not be branded as an aspiring Washington politician, the Student Association presidential runoff candidate said. Instead, Aswani said he is “just your typical guy.”
Aswani, who was born in Queens, N.Y. and raised in Daytona, Fla., has an eclectic taste for sports and other activities. Aswani said he is an avid NASCAR enthusiast as well as a fan of the New York Mets.
“At the Student Bar Association (endorsement hearing), one of my campaign managers asked me why I was in the room longer than any of the other candidates,” Aswani said. “It was probably because midway through someone asked me if I was a Mets or a Yankees fan, and we talked for 20 minutes about the Mets.”
Aswani attributes his love for sports to his father, Arjan Aswani, a 69-year-old immigrant from India who now has his American citizenship.
“Because my dad is as old as he is, I would be the kid watching other kids play catch with their dads while I sat inside and watched football on TV with mine,” said Aswani, a junior. “Because I have been watching sports for so long with my dad, it grew on me to love sports.”
Family is very important to Aswani, who said the first thing he did after he found out he would be moving on to the SA runoff election was call his mother.
“Even now as a junior, I call my parents daily,” Aswani said. He added that his parents were always supportive of his endeavors, even if he “was just the techie backstage in a school play.”
Aswani is a culturally diverse student. His father is Hindi and was born in Pakistan before it separated from India and became a sovereign nation. His mother, Kavita Aswani, 54, was born in India but raised in Singapore.
“We get the hybrid Indian and Oriental food and it just tastes amazing,” Aswani said. “If I win (the election this week), next years’ transition dinner (for the new SA members) will be my mom’s cooking.”
Though Aswani has been successful at GW in roles including SA senator for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, house proctor and WRGW business manager, he said he has not been a stranger to adversity.
As one of five Indians to graduate from his high school class of 580 students, Aswani said many of his peers did not understand his culture.
“I had to go out of my way to hang out with people of my same culture,” Aswani said. “If anything, it made me who I am. I have learned at GW that I don’t have to explain myself. I don’t have to be like, ‘I’m not eating meat on Monday because that’s what I do, I’m Hindu.’ Instead I just don’t eat meat on Mondays.”
Similarly, Aswani has dealt with many family illnesses ranging from personal illness to his mother, a two-time breast cancer survivor, and his father, who suffered multiple heart attacks last year. Aswani chose to resign from his position as an SA senator last year so that he could travel back and forth between Daytona and D.C. frequently.
“If there is one thing my mom always tells me, it’s to be optimistic with everything,” Aswani said.
Being true to his personality and ideas is very important to Aswani, and that is what he says he will bring to the SA if elected president.
He said, “Thirty-seven percent of people voted for me to be myself, and that is what I am going to do if I am SA president – just be Vishal.”