Future surgeon works for inclusion on campus

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The daughter of Indian immigrants, Priyanki has always challenged herself to step outside the comfortable and familiar. But when she told her parents she had won a full-tuition Posse Scholarship, her mother started crying.

“It was intense when they found out I was going out of state,” she remembers. “Now they’re on board, but the initial reaction was very scary.”

As a member of the first Bay Area Posse at the University of Puget Sound, Priyanki has taken her campus by storm. While she dreams of becoming a surgeon, she’s also working with the school community to empower others.

During her freshman year, Priyanki was chosen by the dean of students for Puget Sound’s Peer Board. Her commitment to making her campus community more inclusive led to a position on the Honor Court, where she now serves as chief justice. It also inspired Priyanki to create a space on campus to confront issues faced by South Asian students and to advocate for a campus environment where every culture feels represented and safe.

Priyanki's Posse, the first at University of Puget Sound, was featured in Arches magazine.
Priyanki's Posse, the first at University of Puget Sound, was featured in Arches magazine.

Now more than ever, Priyanki understands the courage it takes to lead.

“I’d never been away from my family for more than a month,” she says, of the obstacles she faced as a new student away from home. “I’ve always been close to my dad, and he has a lot of health issues—and my mom doesn’t speak English. But the more things I got involved in, the more I understood that life doesn’t stop for my parents just because I’m not there.”

Priyanki is an honors student pursuing both a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular and cellular biology and a Bachelor of Arts in history. She has been steadfast in using her growing skills in these fields to benefit others.

Last summer, she worked alongside Dr. Alan Wu at San Francisco General Hospital, using blood samples to test machines that detect colon cancer.

“I’ve always been interested in cancer,” Priyanki says, “because I’ve lost family members to it.”

“Priyanki is already a role model and leader.”

Priyanki plans to eventually attend medical school, aiming to become an orthopedic surgeon. She intends to incorporate an inclusive world perspective into her medical pursuits; a talented linguist, she is fluent in English, Gujarati and Hindi, and is learning Spanish, German and Sanskrit.

“It’s a field where there are very few women, especially women of color,” she explains. “There’s a lot of space for growth.”

Dr. Kristine Bartanen, Puget Sound’s provost, interim vice president for student affairs, and dean of students said that Priyanki exemplifies determination.

“She wants to serve the needs of others, with a grounding perspective of history and the empathetic perspective of the arts,” says Dr. Bartanen. “Priyanki is already a role model and leader.”

“She is always willing to take the time to work with others while maintaining high standards for herself,” Priyanki’s academic advisor, Dr. Alyce DeMarais, says. “It is rare to find a student who is so motivated to pursue a life of service while demonstrating such a clear vision for their own learning.”

Priyanki hopes that future Scholars will find the same critical support within the Posse family as she has, while working to reach out to others in the community.

“At Puget Sound, we’ve built really good connections, and the campus has become more welcoming,” she says. “I think that’s something that Posse will continue to do.”

Puget Sound Posse 1

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