Marymount junior named Newman Civic Fellow for fostering cultural visibility on campus

Marymount junior named Newman Civic Fellow for fostering cultural visibility on campus

Junior Biology student Krishna Dodia has been selected as a Newman Civic Fellow for the 2024-25 academic year alongside almost 150 students nationwide. The Newman Civic Fellowship, presented by Campus Compact, recognizes students who display outstanding leadership potential and commitment to creating positive change.

School leaders nominate students who have contributed positively to their campus communities. Marymount President Irma Becerra nominated Dodia to be a Newman Civic Fellow for her work in creating a welcoming environment for Asian students on Marymount’s campus and the surrounding region.

“Krishna has exemplified remarkable leadership qualities throughout her academic career,” President Becerra said. “Serving as President of the Asian Student Association (ASA), Krishna has demonstrated a deep passion for fostering cultural understanding and unity among Asian students on campus. Krishna has gone above and beyond by actively engaging with the local Asian community, cultivating strong relationships and partnerships that extend the impact of ASA’s initiatives beyond the confines of our campus.”

Marymount junior named Newman Civic Fellow for fostering cultural visibility on campus

For Dodia, this fellowship holds profound significance, considering the many obstacles she has faced as a formerly undocumented immigrant from India.

“Being an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. is very hard,” she said. “You can’t apply for FAFSA, you can’t receive certain loans, you can’t get the same internship or work experiences that American students can.”

When Dodia learned about TheDream.US scholarship program, she discovered that a pathway to higher education was possible. This also led her to Marymount, one of only three partner colleges in Virginia

“I really loved that Marymount is a smaller school I learn best one-on-one with more personalized attention,” she explained. “There are also a lot of hands-on opportunities offered through research and internship placements that I knew would be helpful for me.”

Arriving on campus in 2022, Dodia majored in Biology with a pre-optometry track and immediately became active in campus life. She was an orientation leader, student ambassador and vice president of Marymount’s Athletic and Recreation Club, and she also participated in undergraduate research opportunities at the Ocular Health Research Lab.

While getting involved in activities with new and prospective students, Dodia noticed an influx of Asian students on campus but no central organization to connect them. This January, she helped revive the ASA and became the group’s president. In this role, she started building interest in the club by organizing events such as the Holi celebration and a traditional Asian board game night in partnership with the Saudi Students Association.

“Marymount has a lot of cultural-specific clubs and organizations but there hasn’t been any active club for Asian students in a long time,” Dodia said. “Marymount is really international and students come from all over the country and the world. I wanted to create a space where Asian students could come together and feel welcome, and where students from other cultures could interact with different aspects of Asian culture.”

As a Newman Civic Fellow, Dodia will attend the program’s annual conference in Chicago this November. She will network with fellows and program leaders there to build leadership skills and connect with peers.

She applied for the Newman Civic Fellowship to raise awareness of immigrant rights and increase opportunities for undocumented students.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for undocumented immigrants to pursue higher education. There are only six universities in the country that allow undocumented students to study dentistry, and they’re all in California,” Dodia said. “The University of California campuses also have a policy that allows undocumented students and community members to work jobs on their campuses. I hope I can learn through this fellowship how to expand opportunities like that, bringing them to Marymount and Virginia as a whole.”

Dodia hopes to become an ophthalmologist and expand access to eye care for immigrants and underprivileged communities. She credits her parents with inspiring her to succeed.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but my parents are really my push,” Dodia said. “They came to the U.S. to give my sister and me a better education and opportunities to become everything we wanted to be. They are the reason I work so hard.”

Dodia encourages every student, particularly students of color and first-generation college students, to use their time in college to set themselves up for success. 

“Seize every opportunity,” Dodia said. “Things can be hard for people of color and undocumented immigrants. There are a lot of things that try to hold us back. But don’t sit around and wait for something good to happen go out and make it happen.”