Master of all

Merit-based scholarships enable student to graduate with dual degrees and stay engaged in extracurriculars 

By Margaret Corum

Sneha Krish (B.A.’19/H&S; B.S.’19/H&S) wasn’t always encouraged to pursue all her passions and interests. As a high school student in Los Angeles, Krish was a member of the Model United Nations and several service-oriented organizations, such as the Red Cross. Outside of school, she was a member of a dance company and participated in a photography club. She participated actively in community service and completed pre-med curriculum. A principal cautioned her to narrow her focus.

“My high school principal told me that if I stuck to all these things and tried to fit everything together into my career, I would become a jack of all trades and master of none,” Krish says.

But far from them being a distraction, Krish believed that her extracurricular activities complemented her academic life. When she enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University, she finally felt understood.

“I’m really passionate about my studies, but I’m also passionate about dance, literature, staying active and having a healthy social life,” Krish says. “I think one thing that people might not know about college is that there is still time for you to pursue other interests. There’s so much you can do in addition to being a student.”

Krish has been competing in and choreographing a variety of dance disciplines since she was 5 years old. She says dance has influenced her work ethic, making her more resilient and less likely to give up on something new.

“I was captain of the dance team for two years at VCU,” she says. “Through dance, I was able to get out of my path and be active in something I really love. There are so many sides to a person, and each should be nourished and encouraged. It is so important to be engaged in a variety of passions, because it enhances the diversity of the community and broadens American culture.”

Literature is another passion of hers. Current favorites are 19th-century authors like Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. She especially loves the Harry Potter series and affectionately refers to VCU as her Hogwarts, after the wizarding school in the books.

“I’m an only child, so growing up I spent a lot of time at the library,” she says. “I was bullied in elementary school, so I didn’t make any friends until high school. Reading took me to a place where I felt valued, and it built my self-confidence and self-esteem.”

HIGH ACHIEVER

With a long-term goal to be a doctor and a strong interest in health care policy, specifically international health care and global health inequalities, Krish decided to pursue both a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Biology at VCU. 

“The biology degree gave me core knowledge in physiology and biology, the scientific side of medicine. I added a political science major because I want policy and public administration to shape my practice as a physician,” she says. “You can look at health care from a patient-treatment-illness perspective, but a doctor should also assess a patient’s socio-economic background and how it contributes to symptoms and affects treatment. I want to approach medicine from both sides.”

Krish was able to undertake two degrees and maintain her passion for dance partly thanks to the Jay and Sondra Weinberg Undergraduate Honors Scholarship she received in 2018. She also received a four-year University Scholarship as a freshman in the Honors College.

“I was concerned about affording college,” she says. “My family is big, and my dad is the only person who works. We used to have seven people living with us, including my grandparents on both sides, my aunt and my mom and dad. The scholarship enabled me to stay in class and keep my work hours manageable, and it lifted the weight off my dad.”

“Without the Weinberg Scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to graduate with two degrees in three years and be so engaged in dance,” she continues. “It’s very nice to dream a dream, but to be able to achieve it, you need help. And the scholarship made that dream possible.”

The Weinberg Scholarship was established in 1998. A member of the VCU Board of Visitors from 1989-2001, Jay Weinberg realized the school was in dire need of scholarship funds for outstanding students. Then-VCU President Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., appointed Weinberg to a committee focused on raising money for honors scholarships. To date, Weinberg has personally contributed more than $1 million to the fund.

“We had a strong feeling that we wanted to help qualified students pursue their goals and find success,” Weinberg says. “Sneha has certainly fulfilled our desires for this scholarship. It’s heartwarming to hear of her accomplishments and achievements. We are grateful for the opportunity to enhance the quality of life for VCU students who have the ability and the desire to improve the world.”

Honors College Dean Barry Falk, Ph.D., says he believes well-rounded students are vitally important to VCU.

“We are grateful to donors like Mr. Weinberg because their support enables extraordinary students like Sneha to pursue a unique educational experience.”

HITTING THE BOOKS

Krish graduated in May 2019 and is eligible for guaranteed admission to the VCU School of Medicine.

Right now, she is studying for her master’s in global health at the University of California, San Francisco. She has begun work with UCSF faculty to develop a phone-based mobile health education tool to promote postnatal care in Chandigarh, India.

“We are using technology to deliver information to difficult-to-reach populations,” says Krish.

Krish advocates for physician education in health care policy, alongside medical training. She is not waiting for change to happen; she is doing what she has always done: making her own path and embracing her constellation of interests.

“I want to be a physician who is focused on policy. I can more effectively treat communities when I have a deeper understanding of their lives, from both a policy and medical perspective. I will have a more sustainable impact.”

To learn more about the Honors College, contact Richard Spain, university gift officer, at (804) 828-6502 or spainrt@vcu.edu.