November 21, 2011
Two Stanford students and five alumni will begin graduate studies this fall as Rhodes and Mitchell scholars
The five newly minted Rhodes Scholars – a university record – will study at the University of Oxford in England. The two new Mitchell Scholars will study at Dublin City University and University College Cork.
By Kathleen J. Sullivan
Stanford senior Tenzin Seldon was up all night fielding congratulatory phone calls from family, friends, loved ones and supporters in India, after the Rhodes Trust announced that she was one of 32 Americans who were named 2012 Rhodes Scholars.
Seldon, who was born and raised in a small hilltop town in the Himalayas, is the first Tibetan American to win a Rhodes Scholarship, which provides all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.
"My mother, who sought political asylum in the United States, won the right to emigrate through a visa lottery for Tibetan refugees," she said in a Monday telephone interview. "My father, myself and my brothers followed nearly a decade later. It is due to chance that I am here."
Seldon, who attended high school in Minnesota, said many Tibetan American children have not achieved the same level of success as children from other immigrant communities. She said she hopes to pursue a career in international politics, perhaps at the United Nations, to work on behalf of all refugees.
"For me, the award signifies all of the hard work, support, love and conviction of the people who have been around me and seen my journey," she said. "It signifies, not just my success, but success for refuges all around the world, especially Tibetan refugees who are first generation Americans."
Seldon was one of five Stanford students and alumni – a record number for the university – chosen to represent the United States as 2012 Rhodes Scholars.
The other four Rhodes Scholars with ties to Stanford are alumni Aysha N. Bagchi, Anand R. Habib and Katherine "Kate" Niehaus; and senior Ishan Nath.
All told, 107 Stanford students and alumni have been named Rhodes Scholars.
The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Scholars are chosen for their outstanding scholarly achievements as well as their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever careers they choose.
"We are proud that our students have been recognized by the Rhodes Trust not only for their academic strength, but for their dedication to pursuits outside the classroom," said Provost John Etchemendy.
"They all excel in areas of public service. All five Stanford students selected this year are dedicating their academic careers to disciplines and interests that will make a positive difference for the world. I expect that as other Stanford Rhodes Scholars before them, their future endeavors will leave a positive, lasting impact."
Stanford students chosen as Mitchell Scholars
Stanford also is celebrating the announcement that two Stanford alumni – Philippe de Koning and Tommy Tobin – were named George J. Mitchell Scholars by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance. The scholarship was named in honor of the U.S. senator's role as chairman of the Northern Ireland peace talks.
As Mitchell Scholars, the students will pursue a year of post-graduate study at universities on the island of Ireland in the 2012-2013 academic year.
"Stanford is delighted that two more of our students will represent the Mitchell Scholarship in Ireland next year," said John Pearson, assistant vice provost and director of the Bechtel International Center.
"The Mitchell Scholarship offers students a remarkable opportunity to spend a year in Ireland, to pursue academic interests and also to get to know the country and its people. Stanford's previous Mitchell Scholars have all had very positive experiences and speak highly of the opportunities the award provided them."
Aysha N. Bagchi, 22, of Austin, Texas, is a 2011 graduate of Stanford, where she earned bachelor's degrees in philosophy and history, with honors in Ethics in Society. She plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy in politics at Oxford.
Bagchi is now studying at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
She served as a member of the task force, Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford, which is reviewing general education requirements. She also served as a columnist and a member of the editorial board at the Stanford Daily and co-founded the Stanford Immigrant Rights Project.
At last year's commencement ceremony, Bagchi received a 2011 Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Distinctive Contributions to Undergraduate Education.
The Dinkelspiel Award cited Bagchi "for encouraging both students and faculty to be more reflective about their education and their lives; for her service, collegiality and eloquence as a student representative on the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford; for her many contributions to various dimensions of Stanford's academic life, from coordinating 'Ethics at Noon' discussions about moral questions, to promoting academic dialogue through her columns in The Stanford Daily, and for her quiet and effective advocacy for a holistic undergraduate experience that will benefit future generations of Stanford students."
Anand R. Habib, 22, of Houston, Texas, is a 2011 graduate of Stanford, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology, with honors in international security studies. He plans to pursue a master's degree in public policy and in medical anthropology at Oxford.
Habib is currently working on community health programs at St. Joseph's Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, under a one-year global health fellowship awarded by Medical Missionaries. The nonprofit organization is a volunteer group of more than 200 doctors, nurses, dentists, and others who work to improve the health of the poorest of the poor in the United States and throughout the world.
In 2011, he won a Deans' Award for Academic Accomplishment, which honors extraordinary undergraduate students for "exceptional, tangible" intellectual achievements. One of the professors who nominated him for the award described him as a "superb critical thinker" whose work is characterized by "creative genius" and "mature insights," adding that he "exemplifies exactly the kind of deeply informed, pragmatic and caring leadership that the world needs and Stanford enables."
As a Stanford student, Habib worked on behalf of politically and medically disenfranchised people in India, Mexico and Guatemala. On campus, he turned the Stanford tradition of the annual Dance Marathon into a vehicle dedicated to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic by engaging not only Stanford students but also local communities and corporations, raising more than $100,000. His exceptional work was recognized by his participation in the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in April, 2011.
Ishan Nath, 21, of Atlanta, Ga., is a senior at Stanford majoring in economics and Earth Systems, with a minor in mathematics. He plans to pursue a master's degree in economics for development at Oxford.
Nath is writing a senior thesis on clean energy and a national cap-and-trade emissions trading system. In 2011, he worked as an intern in the White House Office of the Vice President, Economic Policy Office, where he researched, wrote summaries and briefed the vice president's economic advisers on housing finance, health care, energy financial regulations and tax policy.
Nath, who was named a 2011 Harry S. Truman Scholar and a 2011 Morris K. Udall Scholar, also served as an editorial writer and political columnist for the Stanford Daily. As a Haas Center Summer Fellow in 2010, he worked at the Carter Center in his hometown, Atlanta, and later served as a senior consultant on the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
Katherine "Kate" Niehaus, 23, of Columbia, S.C., earned a bachelor's degree in biomechanical engineering in 2010 and a master's degree in bioengineering in 2011 – both at Stanford. Her class and research work focused on biomechanics and her interests lie in its applications to high technology entrepreneurship.
She plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy in systems approaches to biomedical science at Oxford.
At Stanford, Niehaus captained Stanford's varsity track and cross country teams, won the Pac-10 5,000 meters, and won Academic-All American status. She also served as a mentor and tutor for students in low-income families.
Tenzin Seldon, 22, of Albany, Calif., is a senior majoring in comparative studies in race and ethnicity, with a minor in feminist studies.
Seldon, who was named a 2011 Harry S. Truman Scholar, is an emerging leader in the Tibetan diaspora, having served as regional coordinator for Students for a Free Tibet and executive member of San Francisco Team Tibet.
As a fellow at the Stanford School of Medicine's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Seldon hosted a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and Chinese students in 2010 and created a critical thinking program for Tibetan refugee children.
She has served as diversity chair for the Associated Students of Stanford University, as a member of the board of directors of Stanford Daily, and in various student advisory groups, including the Program on Human Rights and First Generation/Low-Income.
Seldon also is involved in interfaith dialogue and is a student coordinator for President Obama's Interfaith Challenge. Her thesis will focus on intergenerational differences in India.
Philippe de Koning, 22, of Paris, France, earned a bachelor's degree in international relations at Stanford in 2010. He plans to pursue a master's degree in international security and conflict resolution at Dublin City University.
Currently, he is a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, D.C. The nongovernmental organization, which is run by former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, works to prevent nuclear, chemical, and biological threats from materializing. De Koning is researching nuclear materials security and the U.S-China dialogue on nuclear issues.
De Koning, who earlier was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, spent the 2010-2011 academic year at Hiroshima University in Japan. He examined various components of Japanese security policy, with emphasis on current evolution of Japanese Self-Defense Forces, policies on nuclear issues and approaches toward peacekeeping.
In 2009, he was a member of the Stanford delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Tommy Tobin, 23, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., earned a bachelor's degree in history and in international relations at Stanford in 2010. He plans to study law at University College Cork.
Currently, Tobin is a student at Georgetown University Law Center.
In 2010, Tobin received the Deans' Award for Academic Accomplishment. for his research in multiple disciplines.
One investigation, for which Tobin was the lead author, documented the often-hidden connections between the American presidency and tobacco and their influence on shaping policy initiatives. He also authored an article describing a model for writing centers in secondary schools which was published in The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas.
In another research project, Tobin analyzed previously unreleased documents regarding the medical history of the late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Tobin's advisers described the research as a "new revelation … a seminal contribution to the field."