After a childhood spent in Alaska, sophomore Rya Berrigan enrolled at Western, becoming an enthusiastic Pre-Medicine Biology student and an influential Nordic skier with Western's Mountain Sports teams.
Rya is part of the Honors Program and works as a Supplemental Instructor, where she assists General Chemistry students outside of their usual lectures to help them better understand the course material. That's on top of her own coursework as a Biology major, with a Pre-Medicine Cell & Molecular Biology emphasis and a Chemistry minor, to kickstart her dream of entering the medical field.
"I have always wanted to go into the medical field, ever since I was super little. I don't remember wanting to do anything else," Rya said, saying she has many family friends who work in the health field. "Every time they told a story, I was fascinated."
Since she has gotten into the major classes of her program, Rya appreciates the flexibility and range of courses offered in the Biology program.
"It's nice because the Biology program offers a lot of different disciplines. It isn't strictly [focused on] medical all the time. Classes required for your major are geared towards a more general audience, so you get a broad overview of other disciplines," she said.
Another big factor in Rya's love of Western is the Mountain Sports program, where she competes in Nordic skiing and trail running.
"I was really competitive at skiing in high school, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to ... ski and do nothing else [in college]," Rya remembers. "It's good knowing I could come [to Western], ski on a competitive team and still do trail running."
According to Greg Chase, Director of Mountain Sports, Rya was "pivotal in the team's second-place finish at the Women's USCSA Nationals in Lake Placid for Nordic skiing."
Her performance at Lake Placid, N.Y., meant that she qualified for the World University Games held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, in March 2019.
"I'm really excited for the competition, to travel to Russia, hopefully meet a lot of athletes from around the world and I'm hoping to feel really good during the races," Rya said.
Overall, Rya thinks that Western stands out not only for its campus, faculty and small class sizes, but also for its proximity to many outdoor activities.
"[Western has] so many opportunities to go places and do so many cool outdoor activities. For me ... I can be skiing or running, or drive to Moab in the desert and bike," she said.