Face Value: Sheela Agrawal

Sheela Agrawal

Record-holding runner (cross-country, indoor and outdoor track), biology and environmental science double major, chemistry minor, music lover 

Describe yourself in three words:

Dreamer, personable, driven

Describe Duke in three words:

Intense, opportunity, sheltered

Why Duke?

It was really a combination of things: academics, athletics, and weather.

What one thing would you change about Duke?

I would establish greater interaction between Duke students and the Durham community.

Who do you value most?

My grandmother, Nana. She invariably and unconditionally showered me with her love growing up and taught me so many things about life without even saying a word. It was the example she set that said it all. She's quite an amazing lady.

What do you value most?

Freedom and the opportunities it affords

In her words:

My first step toward acceptance happened just before sophomore year in high school-- I finally had the guts to ditch my wig and don a much more comfortable bandana in public. Besides it was a very practical thing to do in terms of my running... . My "condition" is known as alopecia totalis. It means I don't have hair anywhere. I lost my hair when I was six months old. From my understanding, it's thought to be an auto-immune condition of sorts whereby hair isn't recognized by my immune system as being "self." So it attacks anything associated with hair. I don't think my alopecia can be called a "disease" because I think such categorization implies a degenerative and debilitating effect. Honestly, I don't really care if it comes back, I like the way I am--it makes me unique. Probably the hardest thing growing up was being made fun of because I wore a wig. That's when my mom and sister would come to the rescue and everything would be made fine. Today, the hardest thing is that most people assume I have cancer and am undergoing chemotherapy. I've often had cancer patients, cancer survivors (and people in general) come up to me and ask how things are going, which is really tough because I have to explain to them that I don't have cancer. I feel very helpless because I don't know what to say to them. My condition is so insignificant compared to theirs. Really, I am glad I'm the way I am. It's allowed me to keep that perspective.

Sheela Agrawal

photo by Chris Hildreth

A joint project of University Photography and Duke Magazine, Face Value is an evolving gallery of portraits displayed in Perkins Library and represented in the magazine

By capturing these individuals in images and words, the project celebrates some of the staff, faculty, and students whose contributions define a diverse community. Portrait by Chris Hildreth


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