Uditi Mishra ’26 is no stranger to the spotlight. In addition to being a nationally ranked squash player from Jaipur, India, the political science major is an author and a social activist focused on raising awareness for alopecia — an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss.
At the core of everything she does, Mishra has one goal: to help others.
In her memoir Mighty Head, Mishra shares the story of her alopecia diagnosis at age 11 and the difficulties of having a visible health condition. Around the same time, her growing interest in squash superseded all activities on her list of hobbies, such as horseback riding, polo, and swimming.
“I don’t believe I could have overcome all of my anxieties without squash,” said Mishra.
Since then, the student-athlete has made notable strides in the squash world — including winning the International Board Schools Sports Organization (IBSO) championship for two consecutive years, in 2019 and 2020.
Mishra plays through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, a collaboration that supports Barnard athletes competing with Columbia undergraduates in the Ivy League Athletic Conference and NCAA Division 1 Athletics — making Barnard the only women’s college to offer this opportunity.
When she isn’t striking nicks on the court, Mishra moves to inspire confidence in young people with alopecia. She’s already made history — at the age of 14 — for being the youngest student speaker for TEDx, where she spoke about her successes with squash and battles against alopecia. “I believe that as an alopecian, I should be able to educate people on this topic,” said Mishra.
In the 2019 speech, which was organized by TEDxYouth@JPIS, Mishra shared her journey toward self acceptance. She concluded her talk by pulling a wig off her head on stage and proudly saying, “I’m bold because I’m bald.”
Mishra’s interest in social activism has led her to be a member of the Athena Pre-Law Society, a student-run organization that offers Barnard’s undergraduates mentorship opportunities through its partnership with Columbia Law School. With hopes of attending law school in the future, she is eager to join Interrupting Criminalization: Research in Action, a project of the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW) that combines research and advocacy to reduce the disproportionate number of incarcerated women and LGBTQ+ people of color.
Mishra has found Barnard to be central to her growing self-realization. “Being at Barnard, and in NYC, has made me be more vocal about [alopecia] than ever,” said Mishra. “The new and diverse perspectives at Barnard have helped me find myself and shape my identity for my own betterment. Today, I’m more outgoing, confident, and happy.”
As a way to relieve the stress of balancing the scales between academics and athletics, the student-athlete turns to nature. “During the pandemic, I was frustrated with being indoors, so I decided to start hiking with my friends,” said Mishra. “I really love being out in the wild.” And squashing boundaries.