fbpx Anjali and Meili Gupta | Phillips Exeter Academy

Anjali and Meili Gupta

Year of Graduation: 
2020
Anjali and Meili Gupta seated in The Bowld at Exeter.

"I was blown away by the enthusiasm and love among students for their teachers."

Anjali Gupta knew during her first week as a prep that she belonged at Exeter.

During Opening Assembly, as teachers walked down the aisles of Assembly Hall, past rows of cheering students, she was fueled by their energy. “I had chills,” Anjali says, “I thought ‘Wow, I’m really part of something special.’ I was blown away by the enthusiasm and love among students for their teachers.”

Anjali’s twin sister, Meili, agrees. “I don’t really remember a feeling of not belonging at Exeter,” she says. “At times, when I’ve felt like I didn’t fit in, I’ve always found individuals who empathize and kindly reach out a hand.”

From STEM to violin

The Guptas, who hail from Bethesda, Maryland, enthusiastically piggyback off each other in conversation. Both are proctors in Langdell, members of the Daniel Webster Debate Society, climate change advocates, and active in STEM-related clubs such as MATTER, Exeter’s STEM magazine, and co-founders of Science Olympiad. Accomplished violinists, they have performed in Chamber Orchestra since they were preps. They do a lot together but are forging their own paths.

Exonians are full of drive, initiative and know-how. If there’s any place here we feel like we don’t belong, we know how to change that and create a community we love.”
Anjali

Since prep year, Anjali has focused much of her energy on MATTER, a biannual online and print publication that aims to make STEM topics more relatable to the Exeter community. As editor-in-chief (Meili is a managing editor), she has recruited new student contributors and expanded the publication’s mission to include outreach on topics from Artificial Intelligence to climate change. During Exeter’s 2019 Climate Action Day, the publication sponsored a writing workshop led by environmental journalist Lynne Peeples.

Managing the publication is a lot of work, but Anjali loves it. “The number of emails I’ve sent out regarding MATTER is really astounding,” she says, laughing. “It’s 100% student run.”

Bringing off-campus learning to Exeter

Meili’s interest in AI, piqued by an introductory AI course she and Anjali took prep year, has led to new opportunities. Last summer, during an EmTech Next conference about AI at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (read more about her conference insights in this interview by Tech Crunch), she frequently kicked off Q&A sessions with insightful questions about the future of work and societal implications of using AI.

She attended Stanford University’s AI4All summer program, delving further into cutting-edge ideas about using AI; she and Anjali also conducted AI research last summer with a professor from the University of Maryland/College Park.

Understanding how conversation moves and being able to pick up other people’s points quickly benefits any social or public speaking situation."
Meili

“After hearing from the top AI professionals at Stanford, I knew I wanted to bring a program like this to Exeter,” says Meili. She has organized an AI Summit for Teens, targeted to local middle and high school students, scheduled for mid-April. “We have five speakers who will discuss their work in the computer science and AI fields and their personal journeys,” she says.

Originally scheduled to take place on campus, the AI Summit for Teens has been converted by Meili into a virtual Zoom-based program to accommodate physical distancing due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Harkness spurs growth

The sisters credit Exeter’s Harkness methodology for much of their personal and academic growth, noting that it honed their skills as debaters and helped them grow as student leaders. “It’s similar to debate in terms of teaching you how to think and how to speak,” Meili says. “When I was a prep, I thought I had to talk as much as possible in class. But as a senior, I understand when the class needs someone to shift the discussion by making a point. Understanding how conversation moves and being able to pick up other people’s points quickly benefits any social or public speaking situation.”

Helping others Thrive

Through their 590 courses and senior projects, Anjali and Meili are applying their STEM skills to promoting social good. Concerned that Exonians aren’t taking advantage of campus health resources, the girls are developing Thrive, a mobile app providing mental and physical health information targeted specifically to teens.

“We believe modernizing health information and making it more accessible will create a bridge between students and health resources,” says Anjali. The sisters conducted interviews with students about their reasons for contacting the health center (or not), then spoke with health center counselors about how information is disseminated to students. “We’re so attached to our phones that we thought it made sense to create an app for all Exonians to have on their phones,” says Meili. “It’s created by teens for teens.”

We’re so attached to our phones that we thought it made sense to create an app for all Exonians to have on their phones. It’s created by teens for teens."
Meili

Students will be able to watch two-minute videos by counselors and can access them directly via a hot-link to their email. “We finished the prototype of the app and during our spring senior project we’ll bring it to fruition,” Anjali says.

Music faculty are family

Equally important to the sisters is music, which has allowed them to perform in venues as diverse as the Goel Center for Theater and Dance to homeless shelters in the Coachella Valley and London’s Westminster Abbey. “It’s something that’s always been part of our lives,” says Anjali.

Violinists since the age of 6, both perform in the Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. The close relationships they’ve formed with music faculty such as their violin instructor Eva Gruesser, as well as Peter Schultz and Rohan Smith, have been especially meaningful and have helped them feel at home at Exeter. “They’re phenomenal conductors/teachers/instrumentalists and give up so much of their time for the Music Department, but they’re also like family,” says Meili. “It’s an obvious expression of how much they care about students.”

Anjali agrees. “I never thought it was possible to build such a close relationship with a teacher before coming to Exeter,” she says. “I consider Mr. Schultz, Mr. Smith and Ms. Gruesser to be dear friends. I’ve gained more confidence in my musical ability because of their guidance.”

It’s this sense of family that has enabled the Guptas to thrive at Exeter and something they’ll miss after graduation.

“Exonians are full of drive, initiative and know-how,” says Anjali. “If there’s any place here we feel like we don’t belong, we know how to change that and create a community we love.”

— Debbie Kane