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Soniya Malla is adjusting to life at the University of San Diego. A first-year computer science student from Nepal, Soniya’s path to San Diego started more than a decade ago upon hearing her father Upendra’s stories about the campus.
In 2009, Upendra decided to pursue a master’s degree from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies after witnessing the school’s work in conflict zones. Soniya was only eight years old when Upendra started the program, but the campus remained a constant in her life.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” she admits. “It felt familiar to me since I grew up knowing it.”
For Upendra, the Kroc School was the right choice for him. Working in the development sector in Nepal, he had the opportunity to connect with the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) before coming to USD. Those interactions left him inspired, as he witnessed the IPJ facilitators “successfully bringing together parties to help address conflict.” 
At the time, leaving Nepal was difficult for Upendra because it meant being away from his family, which included his two small children. However, he was determined to pursue a degree that would in turn help him support his country. 
Fast forward more than a decade and Soniya is now exploring the same college campus her father called home in the early 2000s. She admits there was some apprehension leaving Nepal for the first time for a university in a different country, but she has since settled into life as a residential student on campus, connecting with many of her father’s friends from his time at USD.
“It is the perfect school for me,” says Soniya. “I love the mission and values. They resonate with me.”
For Soniya, coming to USD was made possible due to donor support of the International Engineering and Computer Science Scholarship at USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. Elisa Lurkis, the director of development and alumni relations at the engineering school, feels a personal connection to this scholarship, having spent time with Upendra while he was at USD, and again when she visited Nepal in 2016. “This fund has provided full support for Soniya’s first year at USD, including her housing and meal plan. Donors supporting this fund understand the importance of educating women from developing countries, particularly with degrees in computer science. Such skills will enable students like Soniya to make an innovative difference in her home country, when she returns.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Soniya and Upendra have yet to explore the campus together in person. To make up for that, the two spent time over the summer looking at the Google Map street view of the campus, with Upendra sharing his favorite spots and giving Soniya hints on shortcuts to class. Now that Soniya is on campus, she’s discovered a love for Copley Library, and looks forward to showing her father around the newly renovated building.
For this father-daughter duo, experiencing the campus in person is next on their wish list, with Soniya excited to share her new home with her father. “I want to go on a very long walk around campus with him,” she says. “I think he remembers every single thing about USD.”
Looking back fondly on his experience, Upendra is proud to see his daughter thrive at his alma mater.
“It is my biggest reward that Soniya is attending USD,” he says. “I love USD and never had a bad experience. I made lots of friends and I had support in every aspect. Other universities are not like that.”
Now, as Upendra hears about Soniya’s USD experiences, this father is proud of what she has accomplished and is excited to see where she goes next. One thing is certain, that Torero pride continues to grow for this alumnus.
“I used to go to the bookstore to buy USD alumni shirts,” says Upendra. “Now I get to buy USD dad shirts.”
Even though more than a decade may separate these two Torero experiences, there’s no denying that the USD family bond is strong.
— Allyson Meyer ’16 (BA), ’21 (MBA)
To learn more about the International Engineering and Computer Science Scholarship at USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering or to contribute to the fund, please contact Elisa Lurkis at [email protected] or (619) 260-7913.
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