Honors senior biology major Swechya Banskota grew up in a village near Kathmandu in Nepal until the age of 12 when things changed dramatically. With sponsorship assistance from her uncle after winning the Diversity Visa lottery, Banskota’s family moved to Portland where she found herself in a new school and a foreign country in the middle of sixth grade.
Although she liked her teachers and enjoyed school in Portland far more than she had in Nepal, Banskota recalls being shy and withdrawn throughout her middle and high school years, often struggling to find her feet and her identity in this new environment.
After four years at Oregon State University, Banskota has broken through her shell and transformed into a confident and poised leader and peer mentor.
Her immigrant background, Banskota says, had already given her a taste for hard work and sacrifice as well as schooling in the core values of compassion and tolerance. But her time as a science and Honors College student at Oregon State opened up opportunities to try out something that she hadn’t before: leadership.
“Coming here as a teenager from Nepal, it was very difficult for me to feel I belong. I faced language and cultural barriers. At OSU, I learned to take initiative and developed leadership skills through various roles and responsibilities.”
Banskota started small. She was a media information coordinator on campus in West Hall, home to students in the Honors College. From there, she moved on to other leadership positions in the Honors College Student Association (HCSA) and the College of Science Student Advisory Board. As the Service Chair of HCSA, Banskota helped organize the ambitious and elaborate Food Drive in February 2017 to combat hunger. The event was a huge success, surpassing the amount of food donations raised in previous years.
Banskota was awarded the prestigious Ford Family Foundation Scholarship at the beginning of her undergraduate studies, which met nearly 90% of her financial need, making it possible for her to focus on academics at OSU and graduate debt-free. She has also received the Merrill Family Foundation Scholarship and the Dr. Amy Chadburn Pre-med Scholarship from the College of Science. These awards have helped Banskota achieve her academic goals and have inspired her to give back to the community.
She cherishes her work as a Peer Mentor in the Department of Integrative Biology and in the Honors College which saw her mentoring incoming freshmen. As a Ford Foundation fellow, Banskota has also mentored other Ford scholars at Oregon State.
“I have been a mentor to six students. The experience allowed me to reflect on my work at OSU so far, give feedback, guide new students to opportunities and give them advice on leadership skills. It was a good way for me to develop my communication skills and an opportunity to become a leader in another sort of way,” said Banskota, who is now good friends with the students she has mentored.
Life-changing research experience
A summer internship in the Michigan Clinical Outcomes Resources and Reporting Program (MCORRP) has been yet another significant and transformative experience for Banskota.
Founded by Dr. Kim Eagle, an Oregon State alumnus (B.S.’76) and director of the Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan, MCORRP is a rigorous and impactful patient outcomes research and reporting laboratory that maintains comprehensive heart disease registries to study and improve quality of cardiovascular care in both the United States and in the world.
Dr. Eagle funded a scholarship for one Honors College student to attend the internship program at MCORRP. Banskota was selected from a pool of outstanding applicants to be the first recipient of the scholarship, which covered airfare and provided a stipend and a housing allowance for the 10-week program