As a kid, Vidya ’23 liked to tinker, mainly with vacuum cleaners. With just a screw driver and a natural mechanical ability, he’d take them apart and put them back together. He started with his parents’ vacuum, then transitioned to thrift-store bargains with a preference for the older models. He liked making things new again.
“I’ve always been a person who looks at something [and thinks], what if I wanted to restore this instead of throwing it away” Vidya mused from his home in Virginia. “You can just repair it, and it’ll still be good as new.”
When it came to vacuums, he worked alone. His friends didn’t share his interest. Later, he’d extend his mechanical inclination toward lawn mowers and bikes, but high school brought him a new challenge: the prestigious and rigorous International Baccalaureate program. He found that shifting focus to demanding academics suited him, too.
College was in the offing, and Vidya’s parents, both Berea alumni, knew exactly where he should go. He came to Berea College with the idea that not having to pay tuition meant his parents would be better able to take care of his little brother. His other idea was to major in computer science, but taking a coding class made him realize something about himself.
“I discovered I wasn’t much of a software person,” he said. “I was more of a hardware guy.”
A course in engineering technologies and applied design (ETAD) allowed Vidya to use a plasma cutter to carve a scuba diver out of quarter-inch steel. He was sold on the way ETAD was mechanics and art combined. He could also make a sign for the bike shop, where he worked.
Vidya is the lead bike repair technician at the Office of Sustainability. He manages the bike shop, where students can rent a bicycle for the semester for $10. There are 60 bikes in the fleet, and Vidya maintains them all. This little bike shop is open for repairs to the community as well. Last fall, Vidya could be found there alone, “an oasis,” he said, in the middle of a pandemic.
“Sometimes I like to think of my work at the bike shop as therapy,” Vidya said. He describes going to classes virtually, staring at screens all day. Working with his hands gives him a break from that.
This year, his friends came back, as did the rest of campus. His supervisor told him he wasn’t just there to fix bikes, but to build a culture. And for this self-described introvert, he’s taking it as a chance to build his social skills.
“I have an excuse to talk to people,” he said. “A customer comes up and they rent a bike from me, and then I see them on campus one day. I can go and ask them, ‘Hey, how’s your bike?’ And then we can talk and go from there.”
He figures learning networking skills will help him down the road.
“I’m really glad I found a place where I can really nurture a lot of myself,” he said. “The academics, the labor and then socially with the community. Those three things are what make Berea special.”
The junior is still exploring his options within ETAD but has been thinking about a career in technical writing. In the meantime, he is going to experiment with detailing cars and work on his Six Sigma Green Belt certification, which will allow him to lead improvement projects and/or serve as a team member as a part of more complex improvement projects. He still likes making things new again, or making them work better than before. It makes him a natural fit for the next phase of his life, which is pursuing a master’s degree in product innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University.
When he gets there, he’ll be innovating without any undergraduate debt, thanks to the generous donors who support Berea College.