COLUMBUS, Miss. — When she first stepped on The W campus four years ago, Menuka Ban had never been to the United States, much less to Mississippi. She was the first woman from her small village of Chhaling, Nepal, to study overseas.
On May 11, she will graduate summa cum laude from the university that she says has given her opportunities of a lifetime. Student government president this year, the political science and math major is earning two major scholarships to continue her graduate studies at The College of William and Mary.
“I’ve had such a chance to grow at The W,” she said. “I would have been lost on a much larger campus.”
Ban leaves The W with a $10,000 International Peace Scholarship from the Philanthropic Educational Organization, as well as a $39,000 Trice Fellowship from William and Mary—a campus she has never visited.
PEO, which promotes educational opportunities for women, awards the International Peace Scholarship for international women students to pursue graduate studies. The Trice Fellowship is awarded to students who pursue projects addressing international issues.
“From the first time I met Menuka Ban her freshman year, I thought she was a one-in-a-million type of student,” said Dr. Bridget Pieschel, director of women studies and chair of the Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy. “She is intent on making the world a better place for everyone.”
Pieschel, who told Ban about the PEO scholarship and encouraged her to apply, is delighted that Ban is realizing the potential her mentor saw. “She is a born leader, and although she thought I was joking when I told her I believed she would be president of Nepal someday, I am completely serious about that prediction. I am very, very glad that we have been fortunate to have her here for four years; she personifies everything that we value at The W.”
Dr. Brian Anderson, chair of The W’s political science department, echoes Pieschel’s confidence in Ban’s abilities.
“She has always been a motivated and engaged student and she had the respect of her classmates in all courses in which I taught her,” he said. “Her plans are to eventually work for an international organization in the area of economic and political development, especially as it impacts women in South Asia. I have no doubt she will become a great contributor to policymaking/implementation in this challenging area of world politics.”
Even though she is the only young woman from her village now studying abroad, Ban hopes that she can change that. “I’m trying to convince my younger sister to attend The W,” she said. “I love this school.”