Two more Stanford alums win 2017 Gates Cambridge Scholarships

The Stanford alums are two of the 55 people recently awarded scholarships during the international round of the competition.

Stanford alumni Yassamin Ansari and Erica Gaston have won 2017 Gates Cambridge Scholarships for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England.

They are among the 55 people awarded scholarships during the international round of the competition for the prestigious awards and will both represent the United States. They will join the 35  scholars chosen in February as Gates Cambridge Scholars during the separate U.S. round, a cohort that includes two Stanford alumni.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation established the Gates Cambridge Scholarships in 2000 with a $210 million endowment to enable outstanding graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to pursue full-time graduate studies in any subject at the University of Cambridge. The scholarships cover the full cost of studying at the storied institution.

Yassamin Ansari, 25, earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations with honors in international security studies at Stanford in 2014.

Yassamin Ansari

Yassamin Ansari (Image credit: Courtesy of Yassamin Ansari)

She is currently working toward a master’s degree in international relations and politics at the University of Cambridge, where her research focuses on climate change and international security. As a Gates Cambridge Scholar, Ansari will build upon this work with a particular focus on the Middle East.

“I am thrilled to be part of the Gates community, where I can learn from my brilliant peers and continue to grow as an individual and future leader,” she said.

Ansari, the daughter of Iranian immigrants, said she grew up with an innate fascination with global affairs and a deep-rooted commitment to public service.

During her undergraduate years, she interned for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). She spent the fall of 2012 studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan, where she led a global and student-run campaign for Syria Deeply, an independent digital media project focused on the conflict in Syria. She spent the following summer studying in Morocco as a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholar.

At Stanford, Ansari served as vice chair of AMENDS (American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford), as a student representative on the Advisory Panel for Investment Responsibility and Licensing, and as a member of the Senior Class Cabinet.

After winning a John Gardner Public Service Fellowship at Stanford, Ansari spent two years working at the United Nations in New York City. As the youngest staff member in the Executive Office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, she served on the climate team that advised the secretary-general and helped to deliver the historic Paris Agreement. Later, she served as the director of the Climate Action 2016 Summit in Washington D.C., and as a consultant in the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Currently, she is the strategy coordinator for Mission 2020, a global initiative that seeks to ensure the world bends the curve on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Erica Gaston, 35, earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations with a specialization in international security at Stanford in 2003 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007.

Erica Gaston

Erica Gaston (Image credit: Courtesy of Erica Gaston)

At Cambridge, Gaston, who has testified before the U.S. Senate and NATO on international and national security issues and on the implications of security strategies for human rights, will pursue a doctorate in politics and international studies. She will explore whether the control mechanisms that external actors establish when working with local or hybrid security forces can successfully mitigate the risks and costs of doing so.

“Whether such mechanisms work has significant implications for local civilians in an increasing number of areas, and for international security strategy as a whole,” she said.

Currently, Gaston is a project manager at the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, where she is leading projects related to the role and impact of local security in Iraq and Afghanistan, implementation strategies for the World Humanitarian Summit commitments, and evolving use of force norms regarding self-defense.

Before joining the institute, Gaston worked at the United States Institute of Peace, an independent national institute founded by Congress, where she led the Rule of Law portfolios for Afghanistan and Yemen. In 2009, Gaston helped found the Regional Policy Institute at the Open Society Foundations, focusing on conflict-related human rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

International scholarships

Stanford students interested in overseas scholarships and Stanford faculty interested in nominating students for such awards should contact Diane Murk, manager of the Overseas Resource Center at, or John Pearson, director emeritus of the Bechtel International Center, at