Knight-Hennessy Scholars launches inaugural application

The first cohort of up to 50 Knight-Hennessy scholars will begin studies at Stanford in fall 2018.

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program is now accepting applications for its pioneer cohort of students.

John Hennessy and Philip Knight

Former Stanford president John Hennessy will lead the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, funded by philanthropist Philip Knight. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The program, announced in 2016, aims to prepare a new generation of leaders with the deep academic foundation and broad skill set needed to develop creative solutions for the world’s most complex challenges.

The online application, due Sept. 27, requires academic transcripts, test scores, a resume, two recommendation letters, two essays and a brief video submission. In addition to submitting the Knight-Hennessy Scholars application, applicants must also apply to the Stanford graduate program of their choice, in most cases by Nov. 15, 2017.

Fifty scholars will join the first cohort that enrolls in fall 2018, with up to 100 scholars admitted annually in subsequent years. Scholars will comprise an interdisciplinary graduate community representing a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.

Building on his or her core Stanford graduate degree program, each scholar will participate in opportunities for leadership training, mentorship and experiential learning across multiple disciplines. Knight-Hennessy Scholars will receive financial support for the full cost of attendance to pursue a graduate education at Stanford.

Process and criteria

“We recognize that an application cannot fully reflect who Knight-Hennessy Scholars are and how they live,” said Derrick Bolton, dean of Knight-Hennessy Scholars admission. “We believe it’s essential that we learn not only about what they have done, but also who they are: their influences, ideals, hopes and dreams.”

The program’s faculty advisory board and global advisory board, respectively comprising faculty from all seven schools and leaders from business, government, health care, law, technology and other fields, shaped the criteria to guide the selection of scholars. The Knight-Hennessy Scholars admission committee will consider three primary criteria when evaluating applications: independence of thought, purposeful leadership and a civic mindset.

Up to 100 application finalists will be invited to attend Immersion Weekend, which will take place at Stanford in January 2018.

“Immersion Weekend will be an experience that is fun, informal and informative for applicants,” Bolton said. “Our aim is that the candidates will learn more about the graduate programs, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program and themselves. It also gives a chance for the departments and us to get to know the applicants better.”

Wide-ranging outreach

Domestic and international outreach for the program began in January and will continue through the application period. Knight-Hennessy Scholars staff have visited more than 50 universities and colleges, both public and private, across the United States, and have completed trips to China, Egypt, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, South Korea and United Arab Emirates. Outreach at universities in Africa, Europe, India and Latin America will continue through the summer and early fall.

“To build the diverse cohort we seek, we need to reach far and wide in our recruitment efforts,” said Jeff Wachtel, the program’s executive director. “We meet great candidates at every school we visit. Promising students and recent alumni from any university are encouraged to apply.”

Knight-Hennessy Scholars staff are working closely with university officials around the world to ensure that the application process is accessible and straightforward.

“We see fellowship officers as our natural partner in this endeavor,” Wachtel said. “Our application process is intended to be inclusive, and we rely on their input.”

Denning House

A ground-breaking ceremony for Denning House, the future home of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, took place on May 1. The building will have classrooms, meeting, lecture and discussion rooms, and a dining space for regular dinners and events.

A gift from alumni Steven Denning, chair of the board of trustees, and his wife, alumna Roberta Bowman Denning, chair of Stanford’s Arts Advisory Board and chair of the Humanities & Sciences Council, made the building possible.

“This space will offer the community of global scholars from all across campus a place to come together, get to know their colleagues and develop the lasting relationships that will endure and extend beyond their time at Stanford,” Steven Denning said. “It will be a befitting space for the pioneer class of scholars and for the many classes to come well into the future.”

The program is named for alumnus Philip Knight, philanthropist and co-founder of Nike Inc., who is contributing $400 million to launch the program, and Stanford President Emeritus John Hennessy, who served as the university’s 10th president from 2000 to 2016. Hennessy, who is the academic architect and visionary behind the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, is serving as the program’s inaugural Shriram Family Director.