A Teacher's Dream | Student Spotlight on Pragya Kc

Submitted by Holly J Winters on

Senior, Pragya Kc, will be missed when she graduates. “Pragya is the kind of student every teacher wants to have in his/her class,” said visiting professor, Pablo Carriedo. “She is smart, participative, open-minded, modest, well-mannered, and a good class-mate, always trying to understand properly and going beyond the explanations.”

Professor Donald Gilbert-Santamaría agrees. “What stands out in my mind is her intellectual curiosity. She seems to be motivated by an intrinsic desire for knowledge, whatever the subject. Combine that with a real talent for literary analysis, and you can see why I've been so impressed with her work.”

Who is this young woman who has earned across-the-board praise of her professors?

Pragya’s family (Kc is a common abbreviation for her long Nepalese surname) left Nepal during the civil war, which was more disruptive than dangerous. “We were living comfortably,” she explained, “but schools closed unpredictably, interrupting our education and our life.” Nine-year-old Pragya was excited about going to live in another country. “I didn’t think about loss or gain, but about the adventure ahead.”

American students’ behavior, however, was unsettling. “In Nepalese schools, respect and discipline are not negotiable,” she said. “I was very shy and shocked by my classmates’ behavior and outspokenness.”

Pragya found her stride during high school in Ingraham’s International Baccalaureate Program where she took four years of Spanish. “I loved Spanish,” she said. “It did not come easily, but I had good teachers and enjoyed the process of learning the language.” At UW it was an easy decision to major in Spanish. “It just made sense,” she said. (Pragya’s second major is Economics.)

Encouraged by Professor Anna Witte to pursue honors, Pragya rose to the challenge. Ad Hoc projects included two extended essays. One, written for Professor Donald Gilbert-Santamaría’s class, examined 17th century playwright, Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La Vida es Sueño. Pragya analyzed the role of the lead female character and how the time period impacted her.

According to Gilbert-Santamaría, “The text Pragya selected is one of the most complex in the theatrical canon of early modern Spain. This is a very well known play, which a lot of very smart people have written about. Student papers tend to travel the same well-worn paths. Prayga's was an exception, and perhaps most remarkable, she formulated a compelling argument about the play that is, to my knowledge, completely novel.”

Her second extended essay was written for Pablo Carriedo’s Spanish Contemporary Literature Class. According to Carriedo, Pragya tackled “one of the most distressing, shocking and difficult novels of all time, La Familia de Pascual Duarte.” Carriedo’s initial doubts were assuaged as he worked with her. “I saw a very well organized mind, a clever sensibility and mature analysis and deconstruction of characters and plots in a comparative and historical perspective,” he marveled. “Her project was especially remarkable because of her deep understanding of the connections between literature and history, the social processes that have formed Spanish contemporary culture and its difficult evolution during Franco’s regime.” Carriedo added that Pragya’s essay was, “simply ready to be published.”

Last summer, Pragya’s short film for Felix Viscarret’s film class, was a hit with faculty and staff. “I wanted to do something simple and funny, rather than get lost in the profound and serious,” she said. The film comments on the current awkwardness borne out of social media and our ability to know a lot about one another without actually ever speaking. Watch Pragya's short film here.

Because requirements for her majors did not overlap, Pragya, unable to study abroad, chose two service-learning quarters with Community In Solidarity With the People Of El Salvador (CISPES). She did translations, helped organize fundraisers, and worked on teach-ins to raise awareness about the political, economic and social issues in El Salvador. “There is no substitute for the exposure to language and culture that travel offers,” said Pragya, “but in my situation, working for CISPES was fulfilling. And I learned that I don’t need to leave the U.S. to speak Spanish!”

Pragya is grateful to the Spanish Department and her teachers – all of them. “It’s hard to single anyone out,” she said. “Ana Witte’s play production class was one of the best. Donald Gilbert-Santamaria is hands-down amazing. If anyone can make 16th century sonnets and poems NOT boring - especially in a daily three hour summer class - he can!” she laughed. “Inma Raneda comes to mind as does adviser, Suzanna Martinez. It is refreshing to find the closeness within the Spanish Department at a school as huge as UW. It’s like a family.”

Next winter, Pragya will travel to Nepal to work with anti-sex trafficking organizations that provide victims with shelter, educational opportunities and job training. Her work with CISPES will be helpful in this difficult sector, according to Pragya. Then, back to Seattle to apply for grad school in anticipation of a career in international development and affairs.

Pragya’s advice to students: “Enjoy the time you have in this department. It is one of the most unique times of your life and while it can be stressful you are so lucky to be at UW. I am realizing this now that I’m leaving. Enjoy each moment!”

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