PBS Graduate Shobha Ambi Wins Vice Chancellor's Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Citizenship

July 11, 2020

This year, PBS graduate Shobha Ambi of the Class of 2020 won one of the most prestigious awards conferred by UCSB – the Vice Chancellor's Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Citizenship, presented annually to graduating seniors who “embrace the principles of scholarship, leadership, and citizenship —through activities that enhance UCSB’s academic environment, contributions to a consequential project, or extraordinary service to the campus community.” Congratulations to Shobha! Recently we interviewed Shobha for the stories behind the award.


1. What does this award mean to you?

I am so honored to be one of seven recipients of the Vice Chancellor's Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Citizenship, and am grateful to have my service to the UCSB community recognized to such an extent. To me this award represents extraordinary service to the community, so it feels unbelievable that I was able to make such an impact on UCSB. I dedicated my time at UCSB to being as involved as possible in campus organizations in order to better the experiences of other students, and I'm proud to say I believe I did just that. As Co-President of the Society of Undergraduate Psychologists, Lead Representative in the Student Mental Health Task Force, Campus Liaison in Active Minds, a research assistant in three labs, External Vice President of Indus, and Mental Health Peer for two years at CAPS, I feel like I did my part in helping at least one student feel more at home in UCSB, and that's all I could ever really ask for.


2. Could you share with us some of your most exciting and unforgettable experiences as an officer for SUP@UCSB and your work as a Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Mental Health Peer?

CAPS and SUP were definitely two of my favorite commitments throughout undergrad, and I'm glad to have spent two years in each organization to impact the UCSB community and make incredible friends I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to know. For SUP my most unforgettable experience was definitely the first meeting of Fall Quarter 2019, where we were able to fill up IV theater so much that students had to stand along the walls and sit in the aisles because the room was so packed with excited PBS students wanting to join and learn more about SUP! It was a surreal experience to be able to share my UCSB story and resources SUP could provide to all those wide-eyed students, and from that meeting alone we may have gotten over 150 new members! My time at CAPS was the most impactful, for me and other students alike, so it is so difficult to choose just one exciting and unforgettable experience. If I had to choose, it actually may have been my very first drop-in counseling I conducted in 2018. I had been facing my own adversities that year and felt lost in countless areas of my life, but I had heard about the concept of mental health and CAPS and decided to learn a bit about counseling. Only after becoming a part of the CAPS team and really learning how mental health can impact an individual did I realize that my purpose is to help people suffering from their mental health issues, and I wanted to do everything in my power to help at least one student feel seen and cared about. My first drop-in was nerve-wracking, with the student in severe distress and sobbing in front of me, I was taken aback and suddenly felt as if I did not know what I could do to help. I was discouraged at first but quickly remembered my training and validated the student's feelings and eventually, they left the room laughing and telling me I helped them feel much better in that moment than they did when they first walked in. I was able to help them feel appreciated and seen! I did that! This drop-in really solidified my desire to help individuals with their mental health, and I actually decided to change my entire career path because of my experiences at CAPS. I am forever grateful for all the work I did at CAPS along with the incredible staff and the best supervision team (shout out Gladys Koscak, the most loving and strong Supervisor I could ever ask for), and am happy to have made an impact on at least one student as a Mental Health Peer.


3. What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation I plan on applying to accelerated graduate nursing programs in Fall of 2020, where I would become an RN and get my MSN to then have a career as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. It's been difficult to find opportunities to better my community while COVID-19 is still widely spread, but I have been able to continue volunteering as a Crisis Counselor through the national Crisis Text Line, take online classes to further my education in the healthcare field, and founded an organization to help Sri Lankan American children learn about mental health at a young age, so that they are able to become familiar with common symptoms of mental disorders along with the intersection of being First Generation, and learn self-help activities they can regularly practice to take care of their own mental health. I hope to find a position working with adolescents in a Psychiatric Hospital this year, and am excited to see how I can help people this year post grad!