Vinayak Sharma, a native from New Delhi, India, never truly saw himself pursuing his undergraduate career in the United States. Continuing his education in a country other than his own was a thought that had not crossed Sharma’s mind until he flew halfway across the world in the 8th grade. Looking back, Sharma appreciates the steps he took that led him to where he is today, and finds it incredibly rewarding. 

Photo of Vinayak Sharma and fellow students

When Sharma was in middle school, he participated in Model United Nations (UN) acting as a diplomat. It was an activity that allowed him to start developing his leadership skills and broadening his horizons. A few months into the program, Sharma’s school in New Delhi partnered with Alma College, a liberal arts school in Michigan, to be able to participate in a national Model UN conference. With a grand opportunity within reach, Sharma hopped on a plane with his teammates and flew across the world for the first time in his life. Much like him, other members of his family had never been to the United States before. Sharma was breaking new ground for him and his family. 

Upon returning to New Delhi, Sharma instantly knew he wanted to return to the United States to pursue his undergraduate education. 

“I started looking everywhere for computer science degrees, but more specifically software engineering,” explained Sharma. 

After what seemed like an endless search, Sharma found the University of Minnesota. Upon further research, he found that the only campus within the system that offered a more specialized bachelor’s degree was the University of Minnesota Crookston. 

“As soon as I read more and more about the software engineering degree at UMN Crookston, I was convinced that it was a perfect fit for me” Sharma recalls. 

UMN Crookston has felt like home for Sharma since the moment he stepped foot on the campus. A common theme throughout his time in the classroom, activities, and on campus living was the feeling of a tight knit community. 

At UMN Crookston, Sharma also felt like he could talk directly to his professors anytime.

Photo of Vinayak Sharma

“At larger colleges, you usually have to go to graduate assistants with questions or for tips. Here, I can absorb all the knowledge directly from my professors and that to me feels like a huge advantage,” emphasized Sharma. 

“UMN Crookston not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them,” shared Sharma. 

Sharma has encountered friends, faculty, and staff that have supported his journey from day one. He remembers a class where they were learning “python”, a software engineering language, and he found artificial intelligence to be the most interesting part of the class. Although it was not the main topic of the class, it was the one that ignited his curiosity the most, and his teacher nudged him to pursue his interest without hesitation. 

“It’s hard to find a place where faculty is so invested in their students and care deeply about what their passions are and what they want to learn more about,” commented Sharma. 

Sharma has not only found himself thriving in the academic side of UMN Crookston, he has become an integral part of the student body community. Sharma is a senior community adviser in residential life, he is a Crookston Student Association treasurer, he is also the president of the Multicultural International Club, and a tutor for programming languages. 

“All of these opportunities have allowed me to develop my leadership skills, work with wonderful people, and have helped me foster the tight-knit, home away from home environment that I treasure so deeply,” Sharma explains. 

It is safe to say that Sharma is involved in many areas of campus and is enjoying his college years to the fullest. Sharma is molding his college experience to be the best it can be and one where he can get the most out of UMN Crookston. 

Upon graduation, Sharma wishes to continue his education journey in the University of Minnesota system. He has started to consider various masters programs that will help shape his future career.

About UMN Crookston

One of five campuses in the University of Minnesota System, the University of Minnesota Crookston cultivates curiosity by engaging students in hands-on learning connecting theory to practice. As the experienced leader in delivering education online, the Crookston campus offers a distinctive learning environment providing personal attention and mentorship to develop leaders, lifelong learners, and engaged citizens. Visit Crookston at 

About UMN

The University of Minnesota System, with campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and the Twin Cities, is driven by a singular vision of excellence. We are proud of our land-grant mission of world-class education, groundbreaking research, and community-engaged outreach, and we are unified in our drive to serve Minnesota. Learn more at

Story Contact: Shawn Smith