Bibek Neupane, senior double major in theater and economics, was selected as the student speaker for Westminster’s Commencement 2016.
Neupane, a Nepal native, came to Westminster with a hunger to succeed. He is involved in many types of extracurricular activities on campus, such as residential adviser, Alumni Mentoring Program, Griffin Quest, the theatre department and more.
The Forum sat down with Bibek to discuss his time at Westminster and what he has planned for the future.
Q: What was it like before you were here at Westminster?
A: I was fortunate enough to go to a very prestigious high school in Nepal, and that gave me a lot of exposure and showed me that I could apply to international schools to get my bachelor’s degree. I wanted to come to the United States because they are very generous with their scholarships, especially for the international students. I looked at a bunch of schools, but I was really interested in a liberal arts education.
Q: What made Westminster so appealing to you?
A: Westminster was the only college on the West Coast. It’s funny because one of my friends wanted me to apply to the Westminster in Missouri, but Salt Lake City’s Westminster popped up first. I clicked on the website, and I just loved it.
When I started the process with admissions, they were really helpful. The emails that we were sending back and forth were very silly and informal. They were very considerate throughout the process, which made it more comfortable.
I applied to the Exemplary Achievement Award Scholarship, which is one of the highest scholarships Westminster offers. I got that scholarship fortunately, but then my visa application did not get accepted. Basically, I initially didn’t get my visa because of financial reasons. I almost couldn’t come [to Westminster], so I contacted the school to discuss the issue. Westminster was able to give me more scholarships. So, I filled out another visa application and has accepted.
Q: How was your experience at Westminster?
A: It has been awesome. I was a completely different person when I came [to Westminster]. I would like to think I am a better person in many ways: professionally, academically and just as a human, in general.
One of the biggest things I learned here at Westminster was to pay attention to social justice. In Nepal schools, there isn’t much conversation or curriculum that address these issues. There is a bigger focus on science and math, even up to the graduate level. They almost undermine other disciplines. However, here at Westminster I was able to benefit from a liberal arts education where I can learn so much about issues in society and social justice. Engaging in different clubs or events or plays in the theater department has expanded that knowledge [of social justice], and I realize it is very important to learn about our society and how we collide and interact.
Q: What were some of the extra-curricular activities you took part in, and what were some of the best memories you had?
A: One of the biggest things I did was joining GriffinQuest. This past year, I have been working as a fellow, and we recently handed the role over to the new fellows. GriffinQuest is a leadership program on campus for students who meet 6-7 times a [month] to discuss topics around social justice, leadership, coaching and mentoring. They engage in a service-learning project, and we go on an outdoor trip every semester. It is a large group with students from all classes.
Next is theater. Before I came here, I hadn’t taken a single class for theater. [My interest] started back home in Nepal. I got involved in two shows at a high school level, but even with just that, I got the opportunity to go to Delhi, India for an international theater festival. There were people from all over the world—even places like Iraq and Iran. These were students who couldn’t openly do theater, so this was their chance to show their passion. That was such an inspiring event that I decided to explore deeper into theater. I came [to Westminster] and it was the perfect place to learn.
Q: How has the process of graduation been?
A: It’s stressful, but a good busy. Sometimes you get tired, but in general, it is worth it. I’ve been super, crazy busy. On Mondays and Wednesdays I go to my internship for basically the full day, and then I was involved in all of the productions this semester. I was a student director for “Our Country’s Good,” which was our first show. I was an actor in “Gypsy,” which was our second show. I also directed one of the plays in the One-Act Festival right after. Now, I am also directing the May Term show. Theater takes a lot of time.
Not to mention my economics thesis for my international economics class. Other than that, I have GriffinQuest, which has been pretty busy because it is a transition year. I am also in AMP, the Alumni Mentoring Program, which takes a little bit of my time. And of course, all of the things for commencement add up.
Q: What do you have planned after graduation?
A: I will most likely be working with the company I am interning with right now. It is a marketing company based in Fort Union Square in Midvale. It is a big Japanese company, Rakuten, and there are a lot of Westminster alumni that work there. On my team, which is about 15-16 people, there are about six people who are Griffins, and it just makes my experience in the company better. I find that I am more comfortable when I speak with a Westminster graduate about a question I have. I want to stay there for a few years, but that will depend on my visa. So, if I don’t get my visa, I may go back for a few years, or apply to graduate school.
Q: Do you have any advice for future Griffin graduates?
A: Being a college student is not easy—it’s hard. It is important that you acknowledge that, especially because there is a negative attitude that has developed about college students or millennials. But, I think that comes from the older generations not being able to accept that things are moving forward, and it is not the same as it was for them. Going to college is going to be hard and expensive, so if you can build a community around yourself, you will make your time in college much easier.
Engaging in the different parts of Westminster and the surrounding community will give you strength in many ways and can even open up doors for networking. I saw this quote that was really inspirational. It is kind of cliché, but the message was useful. It said, “When is the last time you have done something for the first time?” That is such a cool question to ask yourself. Try something new. It will enrich us and help us move forward.
Q: How did you like being in the Sugar House community?
A: Oh my God, I love it. I would only want to live in Sugar House if I lived in Utah. It’s 15 minutes away from the airport and 15 minutes away from downtown. There are two major institutions and businesses around us. It is a really big group of creative people around and a really progressive community in a state like Utah, which is seen as a conservative state. Sugar House is kind of like the leader of Utah for the young people. There are people from all types of backgrounds, with plenty of diversity (compared to other places in Utah). I love it here.
Q: How do you feel about speaking at commencement?
A: I am excited because I have never spoken in front of a crowd this big. I was at dinner with President Morgan and he was telling me we usually get about 5,000 people. I was like, “You’re not helping me right now.” And when I walk around campus, people who have heard about me speaking at the graduation tell me how excited they are to hear me and I always tell them, “Stop it.”
I’m a little nervous. Actually, I’m quite nervous. I’m hoping my theater background helps me with being comfortable on stage. I hope I will be able to get my point across. I’ll try my best to speak slowly, so that I am clear and not muffled by my accent.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Everyone come to graduation. It’ll be fun—I hope. I’m incredibly excited for the speaker, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and to hear about her experiences. She has been involved in some amazing work, and I think it’ll be enriching to listen to her.
I really want to thank the Westminster community for my experience here. I’m thankful for such an eventful four years. If I went back in time and got accepted into Harvard, I would still choose Westminster any day. It’s not just the classes here, but also outside the classes. The community and the people involved are so great. Yeah, we do have problems on our campus, but if we didn’t have problems, then we don’t have any areas to grow. And that is what it’s all about―continuing to grow.