Sarai Ramnani

Outstanding Grad: Sarai Ramnani
College of Natural Sciences

story by Allie Ruckman
photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography
published Dec. 14, 2022

Sarai Ramnani, a zoology major with three minors – horticulture, biochemistry and mathematical biology – will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree this month from the Department of Biology in the College of Natural Sciences.

Ramnani was born in Bullhead City, Arizona, and only applied to three universities. Categorized as a homeless youth according to the McKinney-Vento Act upon high school graduation, they toured Colorado State University’s campus with supportive high school teachers Phil and Libby Andreas.

“As I explored CSU with two very supportive friends, it just clicked that CSU was where I was meant to be,” said Ramnani.

A first-generation Indian American, Ramnani started at CSU in August 2015 and found community through the Fostering Success Program.

“I can’t say enough good things about the Fostering Success Program … with FSP, I had a community who understood complicated family dynamics better than anywhere I’ve ever been,” said Ramnani. “FSP has so many family-style events as well as funds, or food and clothes, that I’ve always felt secured in that I always had a place to turn to if I was struggling.”

Ramnani enlisted in the military in December 2015, and as an active reservist during their time at CSU, took monthly flights to Seattle for drills. Their graduation date was eventually pushed off due to deployment as a 68T Animal Care Specialist to Afghanistan and Qatar in 2019.

While deployed, Ramnani had the opportunity to shadow surgeons and treat military working dogs. Some of their time abroad was marred, however, by severe racial and sex-based discrimination. Ramnani took a break from school after their deployment during Spring 2020. Their eight-year contract with the military officially ends in December 2023.

in their own words

Q. What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome to reach graduation?

I had to balance undergraduate research, military obligations, part-time jobs, as well as heavy credit loads in a demanding major. As an active reservist, I had to fly out to Seattle from Fort Collins once a month for six years.

It was incredibly exhausting trying to do everything at once without letting my grades suffer and getting lab work done or going to a part-time job at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and studying for difficult classes.

Q. What was your experience like as a first-generation student? Where did you find support?

It could be lonely. I felt like I had to figure everything out by myself. People can’t relate to you, and you can’t relate to people, so it’s hard to find belonging. But I found support in the Fostering Success Program. I found support from one of my favorite professors, Dr. Shane Kanatous. I found support from my Community for Excellence advisor Miel McCarthy.

Community is a difficult thing to build organically, but given enough time, patience and resilience, you’ll find your people.

Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?

My two study abroad field courses for marine biology in Honduras and Mexico, both taught by Dr. Kanatous. I don’t think anything is ever going to beat swimming with dolphins, wild sea lions and a whale shark.

Q. What is your advice to incoming students?

 Whenever you doubt yourself, just imagine you’ve already survived.

Q. What are your post-graduation goals?

I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in bioengineering or an adjacent field, so I can study either plant or marine synthetic biology.

outstanding grads

The Class of 2022 represents the very best of Colorado State University, showing courage in the face of adversity in the pursuit of their degrees. Read more stories of some of the outstanding students who are graduating this fall. read more