Victorian earns 2 bachelor's degrees by 17
June 26, 2012 at 1:26 a.m.
Victoria native Natasha Verma just turned 18, but come August, she'll be walking through the halls of Columbia University in New York as a graduate student.
In May, a 17-year-old Verma graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a double degree in broadcast journalism and pre-medical biology.
"I didn't know how young she was until halfway through the semester," said Michael Whitney, UT College of Communication lecturer and former senior producer for "60 Minutes."
Her work in class showed a lot of maturity, he said.
"If she didn't think she did a good enough job, she would rewrite her stories," he said. "That's very rewarding as a teacher."
Robert Merkel, director of Public Affairs at UT, said it was difficult to determine the youngest graduates ever at the university without conducting an exhaustive search of records, which would take time. (To read about young college graduates around the world, click here.)
Verma graduated from Profit Magnet High School and Victoria College in 2009, when she was only 14, and started as a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin that summer.
Her parents, Shama Verma and Dr. Omesh Verma, have supported their daughter's swift endeavors right from the start.
The family moved to Victoria after deciding New York was not the right place to raise their children.
"We started looking at Texas and then my husband got a job offer in Victoria," her mother said.
When asked whether her parents had pressured her to graduate from high school early, Verma said it has always been quite the contrary.
"It's a decision that I made," Verma said. "I wanted more of a challenge."
Once at UT, she continued to challenge herself.
Toward the end of her freshman year at UT, Verma began a television show on the UT student campus TV channel called "Good Morning Texas."
The blue, orange and white backdrop for the set was painted by an artist contracted by Verma.
"I had a painter who came in and painted the Austin skyline," Verma said. "It's cool that I have my own landmark at UT."
"Good Morning Texas," attempted to be in sync with the hip culture of the UT campus.
The artist interviews and news segments are reminiscent of MTV newscasts from the late '90s.
Verma served not only as a producer, but she also shot, edited and hosted several of the shows.
As a 15-year-old executive producer, she was managing students at least three years her senior.
Verma said working on the show made her grow as a person.
"It's been hard making friendships, and then making sure they understand it's work, too," Verma said. "There's a line between friendship and being someone's boss."
Although her background in pre-medical biology hints to a more pragmatic approach to life, don't let Verma fool you. Verma has nurtured an artistic streak alongside her arduous studies.
An artistic streak
She knows how to play the piano, hangs out with artists in the Austin scene and has developed a modeling portfolio.
"To me, modeling is a form of art and expression," Verma said. "It's not so much of an occupation, but a hobby and something that I love to do."
In one of Verma's modeling photos, she strikes a pose dressed in a black jumpsuit and knee-high leather boots with an Oryx horn hanging from her shoulder.
"My mother loves the photos and helps me get into character," Verma said.
Last summer, Verma accepted an internship with Fox News in Austin, where she did something almost unheard of in network-broadcast internships - she got to be live on camera.
"It was really awesome to see how real world news works," Verma said. "The anchors there definitely took me under their wings."
Taking a break
This is Verma's first summer outside the classroom, but she is not sitting still.
In July, Verma will travel to India with her family to film a documentary on the influence Western culture has had on the country's mannerisms.
"I've been kind of bored since graduating, but it is nice having a break," Verma said.
Verma's two younger siblings also are on the fast track.
Her sister, Manisha Verma, 14, is still in high school, but also takes dual credit courses through St. Edwards University.
Her brother, Akshay, 12, is part of the Junior PGA tour.
Both are homeschooled through Bridgeway Academy.
Verma, now of traditional college age, is ready to face the challenges that await her in the Big Apple.
She said she will always have a special place in her heart for Victoria.
"Victoria will forever be my hometown," Verma said.