Anita Balgopal moved to Urbana in 1978, left in 1995 and returned in 2012. She always wanted to escape the Midwest but, alas, it has become her home.
Anita and her husband, Christopher, chose C-U shortly before their son started kindergarten, the couple seeking strong public schools and to be closer to her parents. “I thought it would be hard returning home, but I realized living here as an adult, raising a family, is very different than life as a grade/middle/high school student or even as a U of I student,” she wrote. “It is through the different lenses that I have worn and currently wear that make me appreciate all that this community has to offer.”
Balgopal gives plenty back to the community as well. When she isn’t advocating for her son, who has special needs and learning challenges, Balgopal is the director of the UI’s Office for the Protection Subjects, the administrative unit that protects individuals enrolled in research studies and provides the administrative support to more than 3,000 research studies and researchers at Illinois. She has degrees in health administration and social work and a doctorate in higher education administration.
See why we think Anita Balgopal is a Chambana Mom to Know
Q: Many of our readers have participated in studies involving human subjects at U of I, or they have children who have. What should study participants know about the role of IRB?
Research engaging human subjects is founded on three principles: respect to all persons, selection of subjects is appropriate, fair, and equitable, and ensure benefits to participants outweigh the risks. If you and/or your child(ren) decide to enroll in a research study, it is important that you feel that you have been given adequate information about the study and your role, its duration and all study procedures, how risks are minimized, data kept confidential and your participation kept private. At any time you can withdraw your participation and ask the research team questions throughout the study’s duration. And most importantly, know you can always call the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects, (217) 333-2270 if you have any questions regarding your rights as a research participant.
Q: How important are human subjects to research being done at U of I?
The University of Illinois is a highly engaged institution of higher education and supports a large research enterprise. At the present time, we have approximately 3,000 studies that recruit human participants across both social/behavioral and bio-medical disciplines. Participants with interest in our research and willingness to participate in a study are highly valued and respected. The community with which we reside is also greatly valued. Our researchers understand the importance of developing relationships with community members, are sensitive to the community’s needs and the issues directly impacting its citizens. Efforts do not stop there. Our researchers also understand the critical effort of returning to the community and help make positive changes based upon the research and knowledge gained. It is through this partnership, between the community and the university, where research can yield invaluable benefits.
Q: What should we know about the Indian community in Champaign-Urbana? How you are involved?
The Indian subcontinent is made up of diverse traditions and customs – Hindus from the north practice the religion very differently than those from the south. This diversity is one of its greatest attributes as it adds depth and richness at all levels. The C-U community is home to many of these diverse groups from Bengalis and Mahrastrians, Tamalians and Gujaratis, Punjabis and, Keralites, etc. What is impressive is that these groups may socialize independently but also pull together as one to celebrate our Indian heritage. The Indian Culture Society and the Indian Student Association are active in providing venues where the Indian community come to celebrate and share their heritage as one.
Q: What does Diwali mean to you? How does your family celebrate?
Diwali is a Hindu holiday during the autumn months and signifies the victory of good over evil. It is known as the festival of lights and a time we light ‘diyas’ (candles or lamps) around our house. Every year my parents gave my sister and me a new outfit to wear for the Diwali celebration. Our close family friends host a large Diwali party at their house and that has become part of our tradition. Because of the timing of Diwali and the lights put up outside homes, may non-Hindus may think that the families are over-zealous with putting up their Christmas lights. That is certainly not the case!
Q: What is your family’s favorite way to spend time together in C-U (out of the house)?
We love to do lots of things together, especially play games. Our son is convinced he is going to be a future America Ninja Warrior and has been building his own obstacle course around the house. I have no clue what’s in store for us come spring when he takes his ‘course’ outdoors and asks us to be fellow participants!
Q: What would you love to see in C-U that we don’t already have?
More restaurants! I am impressed with the growth of restaurants since I left the area in 1995, however, it would be nice to see some more independently owned establishments. That said, I do miss Corner Bakery, oh, and I would love a Trader Joe’s!
Q: Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I would like to start a dinner party group, be it progressive or more mainstream. Please reach out if you are interested! email@example.com