Bibatshu Thapa Chhetri ’25 grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the foothills of the Himalayas, and going to college in the United States wasn’t part of his expected path.
But Chhetri, whose father used to work as a porter and mountain guide on high-altitude treks and whose mother runs a small handicrafts business, had dreams that stretched beyond the high mountain peaks that surrounded him. Through hard work, talent, and determination, he made it to Maine and Colby, where he’s a computer science and science, technology, and society double major, and a campus leader who was elected co-president of his class and vice president of the student body.
His dreams continue to stretch far beyond his current horizon on Mayflower Hill. And through DavisConnects, the College’s innovative reinvention of the traditional career development center, Chhetri and other students are given the chance to really see where their dreams might lead.
“I’ve had so many opportunities that I would have never thought of,” he said. “DavisConnects has networks all over the states, in every field, and they know who to connect you to. This is something that is so, so helpful.”
Defining ‘true north’
DavisConnects, which was established in 2017 with a $25-million gift from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, aims to help students design their future by orienting to their sense of “true north,” the direction that most resonates for them based on their priorities, values, personalities, interests, and skills.
The center connects students with internships and research opportunities, often with the help of the College’s robust alumni network, connects them with funding to make those opportunities happen, and connects them with the tools necessary for life after college.
“We really are a remarkable hub that helps students connect,” said Damon Yarnell, the dean of student and global advancement and head of DavisConnects.
So far, the center has helped arrange four major experiences for Chhetri. Those include spending Jan Plan his first year in New York City while he completed an internship with Atlas Merchant Capital, a private equity firm whose founder and chief executive officer is Life Trustee Robert Diamond ’73, LL.D ’08.
The summer after that, he traveled to Silicon Valley in California and then to Nepal to research intellectual property piracy. This year for Jan Plan, he is taking a course in leadership exploration and community living, which includes a 12-day wilderness expedition with the National Outdoor Leadership School to Baja Sur, Mexico. Through a one-day DavisConnects event in Boston this past fall called “Paving the Road to a Future in Finance,” he had a mock interview with a company owner who ended up hiring him for a summer job.
“I’m very grateful for all of that,” he said.
Learning how to course correct
Though the number of opportunities that Chhetri has pursued through DavisConnects may not be typical for every student, the creativity and variety showcase the breadth of what the center is able to offer, according to Yarnell.
“What most students know about DavisConnects is that we have generous funding resources available to provide access to impactful experiences and transformative experiences like internships, research, global study, and global projects,” he said. “Any student, regardless of background, can have access to those opportunities, and more than one.”
It’s important to understand why the College believes so strongly and invests so robustly in providing students with the access to such experiences, Yarnell said. One reason is simple: through DavisConnects, students can build résumés that set them apart from students at other educational institutions. Perhaps less obvious is that the center encourages students to test their interests through real-world experiences, and not just once but perhaps multiple times. An internship that shows a student that a career path isn’t for them may be as valuable as one that proves that they’re on the right track.
“It is through testing that people discover their path,” Yarnell said. “Not only will they launch into a direction that aligns with their values and personalities and talents, but they will have developed the lifelong skill of learning from their experiences, or course-correcting.”
A world of opportunity
For Chhetri, having access to the opportunities through DavisConnects has been extraordinary.
Back home in Nepal, he had excelled in high school, graduating at 16, and took a gap year to work at different service organizations and think about his future. His parents wanted him to go to the local university to study engineering, but when he met a professor who had gone to school in the United States, his imagination was sparked. There were many barriers to overcome before that could happen, however, especially the cost of a U.S. education.
But Chhetri was determined. Through the U.S. Educational Foundation in Nepal, a program run by the U.S. Department of State, he was able to get free SAT test preparation and advice about applying for higher education. There, he learned about another State Department program that helps highly qualified international students figure out how to study in the United States.
When he was almost 19, he was accepted at Colby, where he has thrived.
The path he has started here has made his family proud. It is leading to a future that, though still not set in stone, feels exciting and deeply personalized. And no matter where he ends up, or what he ends up doing, he wants to find a way to pay forward the opportunities he has experienced at the College.
“My main goal would be to hold onto those values and give back as much as possible,” he said.
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