UTPB grads walk stage Saturday

Both 2020 and 2021 will participate in commencement

University of Texas Permian Basin Student Body President Sarbagya Malla stands for a portrait Tuesday at the Student Activity Center. Malla graduates Saturday morning with fellow students of class of 2021 at the Horseshoe Arena in Midland. Malla is graduating with a major in computer science and minor in math. He plans to get his master of education in student affairs in higher education (SAHE). Malla is an international student from the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. (Jacob Ford | Odessa American)

On Saturday, Sarbagya Malla will be striding across the stage at the Horseshoe Arena and Pavilion in Midland for the University of Texas Permian Basin’s graduation.

Malla, 22, will be among 618 graduates this spring, including fall 2020 graduates. Communications Manager Alexa Dunson said in a text message that last fall’s graduates are being allowed to walk because they didn’t have a graduation last year due to COVID-19.

In fall 2020, there were 488 graduates. Commencement will be at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Malla will be awarded a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in math. He hopes to go on for a master’s in higher education focusing on student affairs, but wants to work for a year first so he can save up.

“I really like the academic setting. I’ve been really involved on campus here, so I want to come back and work on a campus in student life and student engagement,” Malla said.

UTPB Dean of Students, Division of Student Affairs and Leadership, Corey Benson said Malla’s future is bright.

“His goals include attending a graduate program for student affairs and higher education. His experiences as a student leader at UT Permian Basin have prepared him well for study in a graduate program and in his future career as a student affairs professional. His commitment to social justice, student success, and advocacy will be an asset to him and all the students he serves in the future,” Benson said in an email.

Malla was the student body president this year at UTPB. He also served as vice president of the Campus Activities Board and a resident assistant on campus.

“I get to interact with students, faculty and staff a lot, so this is what made me want to change from computer science to student affairs,” Malla said.

A native of Kathmandu, Nepal, when Malla arrived at UTPB he decided to major in computer science.

“I really like the technology side and looking at what new technology comes out and robotics. I still have those interests, but a lot has changed since four years and now student affairs and student interaction is something I really like,” he said.

During his tenure as student body president, Malla said he is most proud of the Falcon Friendly discount program.

“We started this year where UTPB alumni and students can go into different restaurants and get certain discounts by just showing their IDs,” he said.

Malla said the Falcon Friendly discount had been in the works before, but it kicked off this year.

He said his education at UTPB has been good and he would recommend the university to others.

“UTPB has been a great place because the faculty and staff are really welcoming and friendly. It’s small enough that you can make one-on-one relations with your professor and the students and also it’s big enough that you get to meet new people,” Malla said.

Wanting to travel for his undergraduate degree, he looked at European countries. Malla learned English in high school, so he chose the United States.

“And then I was looking at UT schools, and UTPB Odessa had an affordable program and almost everything was nearby. The Walmart (is) right across the street, the HEB, Target or anything I ever need to go to is super close to campus,” Malla said.

The scenery in Odessa is quite a change from what Malla is used to.

“But once you get used to it, it’s not a bad place,” he said.
He added that there’s a lot going on. There are events every week.

“… You can just walk out and there’s someone giving out free stuff, or there’s someone having an event, so it’s not really a bad place or different,” Malla said.

He’s not sure where he’s going to go after graduation, but he plans to take his master’s in Texas.

His family is still in Nepal. Malla’s 18-year-old brother has started college at Prime College in Nepal.

They stay in touch by phone and through video calls.

“… I wouldn’t say I’m used to being far away, but my mom was a traveling nurse and my dad used to work at different cities, so I got used to being far away from my parents. It somewhat helped me cope with coming to another country,” Malla said.

During his first few months in West Texas, he was soft spoken and spoke very fast.

“But then I realized (those are) the two worst things I could do because people couldn’t hear me or understand me, so I had to learn to slow it down and enunciate words …,” Malla said.

The president of the student body is voted on by the students.

“It was a … wonderful experience because I used to look down at myself. I came from another place and I used to think maybe I’ll never get along with anyone or meet friends. But when … over 5,000 students vote for you, it’s an amazing feeling. … I already knew the people here were kind and welcoming, but to get elected to serve in such a position, it made it even better,” Malla said.

Serving as student body president, he said, will help him.

“… I’ve had the opportunity to serve in different campus departments, faculty, staff, departments, committees and it has helped me with better communication skills because I have to report back everything I hear about in a meeting to the student government and the students. It has helped me with teamwork, problem solving and communications. These are just a few things of the many things I learned,” he added.