2021 Virginia Tech Honors College Stamps Scholar Graduates
Virginia Tech Honors College Stamps Scholar 2021 Graduates
Below are the inspiring stories of our four 2021 Virginia Tech Honors College Stamps Scholar graduates: Abina Baral, Natasha Doshi, Sengal Ghidewon, and Casey Jung.
Abina Baral, 22, has graduated with a dual degree in clinical neuroscience and psychology. Baral and her family moved from Nepal to Blacksburg, Virginia, in 2011.
“As an immigrant who migrated to the United States, I can certainly understand the complexities that are associated with financial hardships in transitioning to society and learning a different language and culture,” said Baral. “The Stamps Scholarship and the Honors College really allowed me to be fearless and take opportunities that I might not have otherwise been able to.”
Two years ago, Baral had a defining moment at a Strive Foundation conference when she met E. Roe Stamps IV. She recalls: “I asked him something along the lines of, ‘What are your expectations from us?' and he said, ‘I just want you to help someone else. I want that someone else to help someone else, and so on.’ That statement really stood by me during my academic career. Service has really been at the core of my life, especially after that.”
During her four years at Virginia Tech, Baral contributed to the New River Valley community in many different ways. Baral served as a companion for Warm Hearth Village, a retirement nonprofit organization. As a companion, Baral provided companionship, friendship, and emotional support to clients ranging in age from 60 to 100. “This job is more than just providing assistantship,” Baral said. “It’s beyond that. It’s more about providing emotional support — and it’s such a rewarding job knowing that I’m positively contributing to someone’s quality of life.”
Additionally, Baral was on the executive board committee of the Nepalese Student Association at Virginia Tech for two years, during which she helped to educate and showcase Nepali culture to the community by orchestrating events.
Baral also worked as a life skills trainer at NeuroRestorative, a neural rehabilitation center for traumatically brain-injured patients, in Blacksburg.
“This was a really cool job because I got to work with patients that have a wide variety of neuro and psychiatric disorders that I had only read about in textbooks and learned about in classes,” said Baral. “Watching people live with these disorders, and watching those symptoms play out in real life, taught me so many different things about the complexities associated with certain disorders — as well as taught me about how neuroscience and psychology are so prevalent in our lives. It also showed me firsthand how important direct patient care is and how much of an impact you’re able to make by directly serving patients. I learned to preserve the dignity of those patients. It really taught me a lot about empathy and compassion that truly no textbook could have taught me.”
Baral’s early passion for psyche began in her high school AP psychology class. “My teacher said, ‘You don’t really see with your eyes; it’s your brain doing all of that for you.’ I was really fascinated by that sentence and was amazed that there is an organ that practically controls your whole body,” Baral reflected. “I realized that the brain and behavior are so interconnected. It’s really hard to understand the brain completely without understanding behavior, so I then decided to also pursue psychology.”
Serving as a legislative ambassador for the American Cancer Society encouraged Baral to go into the medical field as well. When Baral’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was moved by the efforts the American Cancer Society makes toward helping cancer patients and their families.
“I wanted to learn more about this organization," Baral said. "As I did my research, I saw so many volunteer opportunities where I could take my mom’s story of her battle with cancer to inspire other people. As a legislative ambassador, I get to basically use my mom’s story to raise awareness for cancer and actually work on the legislative side of things.”
During her four years at Virginia Tech, Baral worked to pass cancer bills in the Virginia legislation and inspire others with her mother’s story.
Baral has also spent much of her four years conducting undergraduate research.
“When I first came to Tech in the Honors College, they really emphasized how important it is to learn beyond a classroom setting,” said Baral. “So, I became very heavily involved with research early on.”
Baral first started off as an undergraduate research assistant at the Work Stress and Recovery Lab, working with Assistant Professor of Psychology Charles Calderwood, and the Measurement of Episodic Memory Lab, working with Associate Professor of Psychology Rachel Diana. Later on, Baral was able to conduct her own undergraduate research and worked on a manuscript “The Assessment of Risk-Taking Tendencies and Trust,” where she was able to serve as the first author with guidance from Assistant Professor of Psychology Andrea Pittarello; Tom Gordon-Hecker, a postdoctoral student at the School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Professor Bereby Meyer Yoella at the Ben-Gurion of the Negev Psychology Department. In her research project, Baral explored whether individuals with higher risk-seeking tendencies tend to trust more than those who have lower risk-seeking tendencies.
“It was a very cool experience because it brought everything together that I had learned about research in my three years at Virginia Tech,” Baral commented.
“Going into medicine is such a service industry, and I think I’ve only understood that through working with patients directly,” Baral said. “We are providing services and making an impact in people’s lives. Service will continue to remain the core of my life.”
Natasha Doshi, 21, has graduated with a degree in clinical neuroscience. During her academic career, Doshi has served as the School of Neuroscience ambassador at Virginia Tech, was a fundraising coordinator and member at Active Minds Inc., and volunteered at multiple institutions, such as INOVA Blood Services and VCU Health Massey Cancer Center. The foundation of Doshi’s work is in raising mental health awareness as well as engaging in the New River Valley community.
“We’re trying so hard to understand this puzzle that is our mind,” Doshi said. “Changing the conversation around mental health awareness around campus was really important to me. … Connecting with the New River Valley community has also helped me expand my perspective.”
Doshi hosted and helped with various mental health fundraising events around Blacksburg in collaboration with the Virginia Tech Cook Counseling Center. From coordinating the “Send Silence Packing” event with Active Minds Inc. to raise suicide awareness, to hosting a benefit concert and masquerade ball called “UnMasking Stigma,” to speaking at events on mental health, Doshi became a strong advocate for promoting mental health awareness at Virginia Tech. Nationally, Doshi also served as a member in Ignite Mental Health, an initiative run by Harvard’s Innovation Labs, which brings together mental health activists to discuss pushing for mental health policy changes. “Through better understanding of the brain and how it works, we can develop a much better understanding of mental health and the importance of how that works in the brain,” Doshi said.
In the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience, Doshi was deeply inspired by the faculty. “In my class with Dr. Sara Clinton on neurobiology and psychiatric disorders, I was able to form a better understanding between neuroscience and different mental health disorders," Doshi said. "In general, I was always really interested in science, but [that class] drove me to choose a STEM-related field, and my passion for mental health just kept growing.”
As a Stamps Scholar, Doshi says she was catapulted into an environment where she was able to chase her dreams, challenge herself, and succeed.
“Being a Stamps Scholar transformed the whole trajectory of my life,” Doshi said. “The scholarship is so unique from any other scholarship I’ve heard of. I was able to build a strong relationship with other Stamps Scholars, and not just at Virginia Tech, but around the world. The foundation really cares about their scholars and makes everyone feel so supported and valued.”
One of the most formative experiences Doshi was able to pursue as a Stamps Scholar and student in the Virginia Tech Honors College was studying abroad through the Presidential Global Scholars program
“On my study abroad experience studying in Switzerland at the [Virginia Tech] Steger Center, I was able to better understand myself and learn so much more about building my personal narrative, as well as to connect with such a diverse group of individuals that I met while traveling and connecting with other Virginia Tech students during that trip,” Doshi said warmly.
As a Virginia Tech Honors College student, Doshi was able to grow more as a person and an academic. She says being a part of the Honors Living Learning Community and serving as a peer educator and leading a class in ethics were very unique opportunities specific to the Honors community.
“I’ve had an awesome time with the faculty and staff members at the Honors College," Doshi said. "It’s amazing how much they’ve pushed me to grow and learn so much more about myself, as well as learn so much more about the world and what it has to offer.”
Another impressible experience for Doshi was attending regional and national conferences hosted by the Strive Foundation.
“In my freshman year and my sophomore year, I was able to attend the national convention in Atlanta and the regional conference in Pittsburgh," Doshi recalled. "After, I was able to attend several virtual opportunities hosted by the foundation. These opportunities really helped me build a network of amazing people that are phenomenal, driven, and caring. The Stamps Scholars are dynamic individuals who push each other to be their best selves. … All the scholars are so eager and willing to build a relationship with other scholars around the world. It’s given me this strong sense of belonging. I’m so thankful to have had the Stamps community be there for me. In this community, I have found people that have lifted me up and really pushed me to be my best.”
Sengal Ghidewon, 21, has graduated with a degree in electrical engineering focusing on energy and power systems. Ghidewon’s interest in electricity and engineering originates from his summer experience working on a solar farm in Eritrea, which came two weeks after graduating high school.
Although Ghidewon grew up in Richmond, Virginia, his family is from Eritrea.
“At first I was going to kind of get away and explore my ancestral heritage, but it turned into an incredible opportunity for me,” said Ghidewon.
The project, led by solar firms E-Tech Solar and Erisolar, is part of a movement by the Eritrean government to reduce energy reliance on fossil fuels by working toward more sustainable methods of energy production. While working on a solar farm project in the small East African nation, Ghidewon sought to confront the systemic lack of electrical infrastructure that affects the growing population of Eritrea and the African continent in general.
“When I got there, it was just empty land," Ghidewon recalled. "So I was there from the initial, ground zero phase. It was a fantastic experience to kind of see from where you start to where you ended, but also seeing the impact now that it had. I realize how important it is to provide electricity to a village, and this created a passion for electrical engineering for me.”
Ghidewon notes that having access to electricity is a privilege a lot of us take for granted.
“Overall, it made me realize how rural areas don’t get to have the same amenities that we get to have, and that it’s a very important amenity that we should start establishing more widely,” Ghidewon said. “Access to technology can help with so many things, such as education.”
As a Stamps Scholar in the Virginia Tech Honors College, Ghidewan said he was fully able to focus on his education and was motivated by the Strive Foundation community. “Being a Stamps Scholar was more encouragement for me to strive for success because people believed in me and my story,” Ghidewan said. “The Stamps Scholar community is amazing because I was able to interact with scholars across the country from different universities and different backgrounds.”
During his time at Virginia Tech, Ghidewan interned at multiple electrical engineering institutions, such as GE Power, ExxonMobil, and Hillphoenix. Ghidewan additionally served as the 2021 Ring Dance Chair at Virginia Tech. As an Honors College student, Ghidewon said he was able to surround himself with an ambitious community of students.
“It's been fantastic being able to live in the Honors College dorm, specifically in East A.J., for two years,” Ghiedewon said. “It allowed me to meet a lot of highly motivated people, and not only other engineering students, but students from all disciplines. ... It was very encouraging because you kind of get to again pick their brains and learn different perspectives.”
Ghidewon is in the Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Program at Virginia Tech, which allows him to graduate in spring 2022 with a master's of electrical engineering. Working alongside Virgilio Centeno and Ali Mehrizi-Sani, both professors in the College of Engineering, further inspired Ghidewon.
“They've been very helpful and kind in guiding me through the grad school experience and helping me determine what I want to study,” Ghidewon said. “They've always been there to encourage me through my education. I think it's very important to have a good relationship with your professors, especially professors who do research.”
Currently, Ghidewon is researching power systems in machine learning.
“I hope to achieve a better understanding of how our system works and how we can better prepare for the future,” Ghidewon explained. “Right now, we’re in a critical state of needing to know more about how all these new technologies will affect our power system.”
By combining machine learning techniques with traditional methods, Ghidewon said, we can achieve a more reliant, sustainable, and resilient energy system.
“The benefit of using machine learning is that we’ll be able to have algorithms that can help us prepare for complex scenarios, or even emergency scenarios,” Ghidewon explains.
Casey Jung, 23, from Adamstown, Maryland, has graduated with a degree in engineering science and mechanics (ESM). “What made me specifically choose ESM was how much I loved the classes in that department and the projects that students have the opportunity to work on,” Jung said.
“I also loved the educators in this department, which include, but are definitely not limited to: Professor Arena, Professor Davison, Professor Borekyo, and Professor De Vita. I really could have not made it this far without the help of the ESM faculty and staff,” said Jung.
During her time at Virginia Tech, one of Jung’s most influential experiences was serving as the team manager of the UpStream Senior Design Project. The Upstream Senior Design Project consists of designing an additive device that can be affixed to waste collection vehicles to measure the mass of waste collected at individual resident homes. The components of the project design include the mass-measuring device, the waste-bin identification system, and the data storage/organization program.
“The UpStream project was such a great opportunity, especially because the company was run by recent Virginia Tech alums,” said Jung. “[This project] was much closer to my personal interest in energy conservation and sustainable engineering.”
From August 2018 to May 2019, Jung was also an active member of the Engineers Without Borders Virginia Tech Chapter, an interdisciplinary organization that designs and engineers solutions to aid communities in developing countries. She worked on the Nicaragua Project to help design and raise funds for an agricultural irrigation system for an impoverished town in Nicaragua.
Jung also volunteered at Remote Area Medical (RAM), a non-profit traveling pop-up clinic provider that serves underserved communities. RAM provides certified medical care through its volunteers in the medical field with the support of community volunteers. During her service with RAM, Jung had the opportunity to complete Narcan opioid-overdose prevention training and Stop-the-Bleed training, as well to assist doctors with manual labor and patient care.
As a Virginia Tech Honors College student, an Emerging Leaders Scholarship recipient, and a Stamps Scholar, Jung reflected on how fortunate she was to study at Virginia Tech. “If I hadn't been in the Honors College or received the Stamps Scholarship, I would have unfortunately had to have gone to another school. I am so grateful for the fact that my school is here in Blacksburg, at Virginia Tech,” said Jung. “Stamps has opened so many doors unavailable to me before, such as studying abroad and learning leadership through experience from our senior military college.”
In 2018, Jung embarked on a three-month summer semester study abroad in Shanghai, China, where she both strengthened her Mandarin language skills and continued to study engineering.
Additionally, Jung was a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets (VTCC), an immersive 24/7 leadership training program that utilizes military techniques to install ethical leadership and character. In her role as a battalion service officer, Jung was responsible for organizing and implementing service projects for over 200 attendees in partnership with the Red Cross, Virginia Tech, and the city of Blacksburg. In VTCC, she also served as the executive officer of the Sash and Sabre Honors and Service Society and was the section leader in VTCC Regimental Band, which performed at various events hosted at Virginia Tech. Despite Jung’s busy schedule, she also spent over 100 hours volunteering at blood drives for the Red Cross and the Virginia Blood Service.
“I really would like to emphasize how grateful I am to Dr. Stamps, Randy McDow, Christina McIntyre, Virginia Tech, and my family that has supported me throughout the years,” Jung said. “It's amazing that I finally have the opportunity to use all that I have learned out in the world.”
Although Jung accomplished a significant amount as a student at Virginia Tech, she explained that her journey wasn’t always easy.
“One thing that I would like to mention for anyone who is struggling in college is that I have been there,” Jung said. “I definitely learned here that seeking help — from Cook Counseling [Center], from my advisors, from help groups, and from mentors — is so crucially important. Classes can be hard, and life can be harder. I really only made it because of the help from those who supported me.”
Having recently graduated, Jung plans to seek employment with a renewable energy company or with the Department of Energy. She hopes that in the future she will be able to use her language skills to help with international energy projects.
“I feel very strongly about protecting the environment, and the people who are affected the most negatively by environmental degradation,” Jung explained. “As a species, we will only use more and more energy as our population increases and individual energy demands increase, so it is so important to address these issues as soon as possible.”
In 2006, Penny and Roe Stamps created merit scholarship programs for undergraduates at their alma maters, The University of Michigan and Georgia Tech. Since then, the Stamps Scholars community has grown into a national network of visionary colleges and universities. Virginia Tech has partnered with the Stamps Foundation to award multi-year scholarships that help driven and talented student leaders achieve their education and life goals.
Stamps Scholars pursue their educational interests while developing their leadership skills with merit-based financial aid, including enrichment funds, that can be used for study abroad, cultural exchanges, research projects, and other educational experiences. Stamps Scholars also join a community of more than 1370 current and graduate Scholars around the world with whom they network and share their experiences.