Astha Thapa, an international student from Nepal, chose KU for a world-class education. Majoring in Computer Science, Astha hopes to break the gender barriers in tech, particularly in her homeland, where women are underrepresented in software engineering. As an admissions ambassador, Astha puts an emphasis on making all students feel welcome on campus. “I work specifically with marginalized and historically underrepresented students, as well as first- generation students so that they can feel supported during their admissions process at KU,” she said. “I work to make students feel seen and to show them what the Jayhawk community looks like.”
Outside of being an admissions ambassador, Astha has her goals set on becoming a cultural diplomat of Nepal to the United States. She has learned a lot about collaboration and diversity in her home country, which includes hundreds of ethnic groups who speak hundreds of different languages. Astha wants to take what she has learned to help provide access to women around her. These dreams extend to working in the White House, advocating for policy-level changes in education back home, as well as aiming to become Miss Nepal and represent her country on a worldwide level to travel and connect with leaders for charitable work.
Astha’s gratitude for the scholarship extends beyond finances. “This is a privilege I am blessed with. Because of the scholarship, I get to be involved on campus, focus on my education, take as many classes as I can and dream about creating change,” she said. “I just declared my new certificate program called the ‘Global Awareness Program’ because all my classes are funded by the scholarship.”
KU student-athlete Avery Smith, a senior double majoring in exercise science and psychology, reflects on her unique collegiate journey. Originally from Texas and then Nebraska, she was drawn to KU during her high school years. “I noticed that the atmosphere in Lawrence and on campus was noticeably different,” she said. “Not only did the athletic department have next-level facilities and benefits for the athletes, but the academic programs seemed highly respectable and professional.”
Avery, a standout on the women’s soccer team, appreciates the opportunities and support provided by KU’s athletic program, emphasizing the top-of-the-line facilities, gear and numerous academic resources. “It is made clear by the athletic program that they will do everything in their power to set us up for success on and off the field.”
As a two-year captain for the soccer team, Avery is passionate about leadership and team dynamics. “I believe psychological well-being is very important in a sport atmosphere and have seen it firsthand many times. Additionally, I have had individuals in my life that have been afflicted by psychological disorders and so I found a strong urge to try to understand them all,” she said.
Her major in psychology has allowed her to refine her interactions with teammates, coaches, and staff, making it one of the most rewarding aspects of her life. “A key component to any skilled leader is to remember to incorporate fun, too,” she said.
Avery’s choice of exercise science as a major is driven by its applicability to her daily life as a high-level athlete. With a lifelong involvement in sports, she recognizes the importance of aspects such as injuries, nutrition, strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, recovery and sleep.
Avery has been proud to don the crimson and the blue for the past four years and will be using her final year of eligibility to finish out her collegiate soccer career after the 2024 season.
She expresses gratitude for scholarship support, acknowledging its invaluable role in enabling student-athletes to focus on academics and sports without the stress of financial burdens. Avery graduates in December 2024 and aspires to attend graduate school in psychology.
De’Mond Glynn, a passionate third-year medical student at the University of Kansas Medical Center, exemplifies a dedication to equity in health care that goes beyond the classroom. His pursuit of medicine as a career comes from a desire to achieve equity in patient outcomes, access to health care for all, and the fair treatment of individuals.
De’Mond is committed to volunteer service and is involved in numerous student organizations. A volunteer moment De’Mond fondly remembers was when he donated bone marrow to a woman battling cancer. This act allowed him to make a positive and direct impact on someone else’s life and see how intentional and generous actions speak louder than words.
While being active in organizations, De’Mond puts forth the additional effort to lead those around him. Mentorship holds a special place in De’Mond’s heart as he recognizes the challenges faced by aspiring medical professionals. “I know how difficult it can be to navigate not only medical school, but life outside of medicine. Offering my best advice so that people can have it even a little bit easier feels like the right thing to do every time,” he said.
De’Mond finds mentorship to be mutually beneficial, as he learns as much from those he mentors as they learn from him. “The perspective I gain from talking to people who are not exactly like me lets me evolve my way of thinking,” he said.
For De’Mond, medicine is not just a profession; it is a dynamic journey of perpetual learning and a commitment to understanding the intricate nuances of human health and healing. “I was once working with a patient who mentioned that he was glad that he came to a KU student-led clinic, as he felt that this was the first time that he was actually heard,” he said. “That really shows the kind of students that KU is developing, and what kind of character they have.”
Kaleena Montellano’s journey into interior architecture at KU is not just an academic pursuit, it’s an exploration rooted in personal experiences and a commitment to understanding the needs of others. For Kaleena, being a Jayhawk is a family endeavor, with her, her husband, and their oldest son all sharing their time as KU students.
Before embarking on this path, the Montellano family decided to make a life-changing move from California to Lawrence, seeking new studies and pursuing new career paths at the university. Her decision to delve into interior architecture is a convergence of professional aspirations and a deeply personal journey. Having served as her father’s caretaker during high school, Kaleena gained firsthand insights into the needs of individuals in health care settings.
This role sparked a passion for creating learning and healing environments that extend beyond aesthetics, prioritizing safety, confidence and overall well-being. “We have learned in our studies that we spend 90% of our time indoors, so we need to spend twice that much effort in designing a space that’s going to inspire creativity and enhance efficiency,” she said. Her unique perspective, derived from experiences as both a facilitator of care and someone who has observed educational settings by working in her younger son’s school, sets her apart in her field.
Her dedication goes beyond ideas or hopes, but a commitment to tangible, positive impacts on the lives of those who interact with the spaces she envisions. Kaleena is working toward a career that is a mix of personal passion, professional growth and a shared commitment to the transformative pursuit of making a better community. As a first-generation college student, Kaleena shares how important scholarships have been for her and her family to continue this academic journey together.
Drew Keller’s lifelong connection to KU is rooted in his Topeka upbringing, just a short drive from Lawrence. Drew’s affinity for the Jayhawks began at age 3 while attending plenty of football and basketball games decked out in KU gear. While originally committed to playing college baseball elsewhere, he transferred to the University of Kansas to fulfill one of his childhood dreams.
“I thought I was familiar with campus and the university from my experiences as a kid but attending KU as a student let me view things from a whole new lens. I fell deeper in love with KU and the city of Lawrence,” he said.
Drew’s passion lies in creating a positive impact by leading and empowering others to become the best versions of themselves. This drive for personal and collective improvement aligns with his belief in the power of effective leadership to foster societal change. Inspired by a National Youth Forum, Drew found a love for sports management and organizational leadership. “I realized I could still make it to the big leagues without being an athlete,” he said. “Although this was a moment of realization, my passion was formed long before.”
As KU emphasizes healthy and vibrant communities, Drew sees his degree playing a crucial role. His vision extends beyond sports, aiming to create communities and opportunities that bring people together. “There is a power that exists in the world of sports that allows strangers to become friends in ways that would not have existed otherwise. It allows people to set aside all differences and solely focus on the underlying similarities that are far more common than we think,” he said.
Drew’s aspirations include pursuing a master’s in sports law and business, ultimately aiming to become the president or owner of a professional sports organization. Being a Jayhawk is a gift Drew cherishes, and he’s poised to give back to the community that shaped him. “Jayhawks take care of Jayhawks,” he said, echoing a common phrase at KU, and a principle he holds dearly.
Add Your Voice To the Chorus. Learn more about the campaign and how to share your KU passion at kueveronward.org.