By Kendall Lowery ’22
Sneha Deo ’17 is wholeheartedly dedicated to exploration. During her childhood in Seattle, she not only honed her skills as a pianist and singer but also discovered her affinity for math and science. However, during her high school years, a chronic illness brought the importance of balance into sharp focus. This perspective shaped her college application process.
“My older sister attended Scripps, and I had an opportunity to spend some time with her on campus,” says Deo. “My first impression was that it was a sustainable place to explore my passions without compromising my wellness.”
As she settled into life at Scripps, Deo made good on her intentions to explore, completing a double major in music and computer science. She also strengthened The Claremont Colleges community as a leader of organizations like Code Literacy @ Scripps, the Asian American Student Union, Tamasha Bollywood Dance Company, and the Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance.
This multifaceted involvement across the 5Cs led to Deo’s election as Scripps Associated Students president, a role she says shaped her approach to service leadership.
“Scripps’ identity as a historically women’s college allowed me to exist there and to not have to constantly prove or measure myself against some version of success designed for—let’s be honest—cis white men,” says Deo.
After graduation, she went on to serve on the Scripps Board of Trustees from fall 2017 to summer 2020. Deo credits this role with inspiring her interest in nonprofit leadership, which she has continued to make time for following her college years.
“My opportunities to interface with the Board provided a great base of experience to get involved with nonprofit organizing and post-grad leadership,” says Deo. Today, she leads South Asian Americans Together for Washington, a nonprofit that empowers the South Asian community to participate in state and local policymaking.
Now an artificial intelligence ethicist with Microsoft whose work combines social science, human-centered thinking, and computer science, Deo attributes her confidence in interdisciplinary thinking to her Scripps professors.
“Chris Guzaitis, my Core I professor, taught me that I was capable of learning anything with the right kind of coaching,” says Deo. “She allowed me to approach things like political science, ethnic studies, or gender and sexuality studies classes with confidence and openness, and that’s a big part of what I do now.”
Deo’s experiences in nonprofit leadership, women-centered education, and balanced learning have culminated in her role as a board member at The Hatch School, an independent, Seattle-based high school that offers a girls-centered education. The school was founded by two local educators who sought to create equity in education outcomes across class, gender, and racial identities. Their vision is enacted through a student-driven curriculum, a high level of student support, and an emphasis on balance and flexibility.
“It allows space for students who are pre-professional athletes as well as full-time students,” says Deo, “or students who are interested in pre-professional arts development, embedded in their communities, or who work and are earners in their families. And all while they are achieving academic success.”
Deo herself found a balance between academic fulfillment, artistic exploration, and community building during her time at Scripps. Now, she’s driven to make this experience possible for students at The Hatch School—and remaining connected to her College community.
“I’m most grateful for the people at Scripps,” says Deo. “It’s so easy to find others who have gone to Scripps and connect with them in new places in surprising and delightful ways. That makes me feel so excited for the future—Scripps is going to keep getting back to me in ways that I can’t possibly imagine.”