When Pam Savira ’22 found out about her Tommie Award nomination – an award that recognizes students in their senior year for leadership, academics and campus involvement – she immediately thought about using that recognition to help others.
“I think just reading their kind words really touched me,” Savira said, referring to the comments from her friends and the supervisor who nominated her. “And (it) makes me want to forward their kindness.”
Savira was born in Indonesia, and ever since coming to the U.S. in August 2016, she’s been making an impact. Savira’s energy is bubbly and high-spirited, and that liveliness, she said, embodies the people and culture in Indonesia.
Her goal of coming to the U.S. started in high school. She began working to improve her English, then she became an exchange student in 2016-17. Her American family, who resides in Roseville, helped her attain her student visa to come and study in the U.S.
She applied to 13 colleges across the U.S. and was accepted to two: one being the University of St. Thomas. Although the other school offered her great scholarships, her Indonesian family preferred her to stay in Minnesota, close to her American family.
Savira chose computer science as her major at St. Thomas because of her love of problem-solving. Challenges and puzzles are things that she’s really good at, which has paved the way for her to excel in her computer science classes.
She feels she can make an impact in that field as a woman of color.
“I was very intimidated because there are not a lot of females (in computer science),” Savira said. But she added that her classmates are very supportive.
Aside from school, she’s present in her community, and is passionate about spreading diversity and change. She is part of the Diversity Activities Board, which has taught her even more about diversity. In April 2020, she started blogging videos to spread the word about international scholarships to bring about more diversity at the college level. One video targeted to Indonesian students accumulated over 31,000 views.
“I did it once, then I thought I was helping people so I continued to do it,” she said.
How she gets active on campus stems from international students, which drives her passion for diversity. “I started with international student(s) because I think the Office of International Students and Scholars is very inclusive and supportive.”
Savira is also laser-focused on giving back. She has taught coding to middle and high schoolers through a web-based application project called Jupyter Notebook. Additionally, she helped scientists with stimulation on research as part of the same program.
In addition to her Tommie nomination, she is also a member of the Aquinas Scholars Honors Program, an honors program at St. Thomas to enrich the educational experiences of academically driven students with a minimum ACT score of 28; a recipient of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Scholarship, which is what brought her to the U.S.; and an International Student Leadership Award nominee. She’s also the president of the Globally Minded Student Association.
Savira plans on going to school for her master’s degree or doctorate, but she says she can only plan and see where life goes. When it comes to giving advice to other students, Savira emphasizes the importance of connections.
“Keep maintaining and building personal relationships with people. It’s really important and I think it helps me,” Savira said.
She also advises students to ask for help when it’s needed, “Definitely go through your journey, and then do a lot of reflection.”
A note about the author: Gloria Ngwa, a student at Washington Technology Magnet, is a participant in the ThreeSixty Journalism program. A version of this article was first published by ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas that uses the principles of strong writing and reporting to help diverse Minnesota youth tell the stories of their lives and communities.