Nirupama Chandrasekhar

Cowell '20, history/literature (creative writing)

Nirupama Chandrasekhar (Cowell '20, history/literature (creative writing))

Nirupama Chandrasekhar, 21, has pursued rigorous and impactful research throughout her undergraduate career, impressing her professors with her independent work and collaborative research projects. 

“Nirupama is emblematic of everything that an undergraduate can achieve at UC Santa Cruz,” said Stephanie Sawyer, undergraduate program coordinator in the campus’s History Department. 

Chandrasekhar was a key member of a collaborative public history project, the Okinawa Memories Initiative (OMI), using oral history, interdisciplinary work, and digital humanities. At the end of her first year at UCSC, she was selected as the 2017–2018 OMI intern via the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program, an experience that she said, “molded my understanding of how to build a complex research project, and how to motivate my fellow students to love learning.”

During this time, she was also instrumental in bringing the Sesnon Gallery exhibit, “The Gail Project: An Okinawan-American Dialogue,” to fruition.

The following year, Chandrasekhar was selected for the 2018–2019 Koret Scholars Program. For her Koret research project, Chandrasekhar used video footage, oral histories, and mapping done during her summer trips to Okinawa with OMI to examine the ways in which death, memory, and remembrance are significant to communities on Okinawa. 

Chandrasekhar has served on the Humanities Division Dean's Undergraduate Council and the History Department Major Advisory Council. This year, four years of research, travel, and hard work culminated in her senior thesis research project, in which she explored and compared the effects of tourism and the military on modern Okinawa.

“When I first came into UCSC, I was really torn and conflicted about my interests,” she said. “All my life, I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful, but I’d never been told how to do that within the humanities.

“I’d always thought it was a very isolated process, a single academic stuck in the library, and I’ve never been suited to that form of work,” Chandrasekhar continued. “But working closely with my peers and mentors at UCSC has been such an eye-opening experience. Finding out that the best work is done in collaboration with friends and fellow-minded thinkers has opened up so many new pathways for me!” 

Chandrasekhar has worked closely with Stevenson College Provost Alice Yang, Professor Noriko Aso, and Cowell College Provost Alan Christy throughout her four years at UCSC.