Stanford’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars program welcomes finalists to campus

Knight-Hennessy Scholars, which will announce its inaugural cohort of up to 50 scholars in mid-February, will provide the full cost of attendance to pursue a graduate education at Stanford. Scholars will begin their studies in fall 2018.  

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program will welcome 103 finalists from around the world to Stanford on Friday for Immersion Weekend – two days of activities, including interviews, small group design-thinking challenges, and an address on life and leadership through storytelling.

The program, which will announce its inaugural cohort of up to 50 scholars in mid-February, aims to prepare a new generation of leaders with the deep academic foundation and broad skill set needed to develop creative solutions to the world’s most complex challenges.

Denning House concept

Denning House will be the home of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program. (Image credit: Ennead Architects)

“From the start we have aimed to build a diverse cohort of scholars,” said John L. Hennessy, Shriram Family Director of Knight-Hennessy Scholars. “The 103 finalists come from around the world and from dozens of disciplines, demonstrating the broad interest in building better leadership. I look forward to personally introducing the finalists to life at Stanford, and to each other.”

Knight-Hennessy Scholars will receive the full cost of a graduate education at any of Stanford’s seven schools: Business; Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Education; Engineering; Humanities & Sciences; Law; and Medicine.

The first cohort of scholars will begin graduate studies in fall 2018.

Jeffrey Wachtel, executive director of the program, said Immersion Weekend will help the program get to know the finalists better. He said its staff members – and interview panels comprised of faculty, staff and alumni – are eager to meet the finalists, each of whom submitted an online application, including a two-minute video.

More than 3,600 people submitted applications for the new program, which Stanford announced in 2016. Candidates apply separately to graduate programs; they must be accepted by departments or schools in order to be considered for the program.

Immersion Weekend was also designed to show the finalists what they can expect as Knight-Hennessy Scholars. 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.

“We’re trying to model what the program will be like, not just stand up and talk about it,” Wachtel said.

Four Stanford professors will present short, TED-style talks to the finalists:

  • Carolyn R. Bertozzi, a professor of chemistry whose research spans the disciplines of chemistry and biology, with an emphasis on studies of cell surface sugars important to human health and disease. Her research group is developing medicines that attack cancer cell-surface sugars so as to render the immune system more potent at eliminating disease.
  • Raj Chetty, a professor of economics whose research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His current research focuses on equality of opportunity, asking how we can give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better chances to succeed.
  • Michele Elam, a professor of English whose interdisciplinary research spans literature and social science in order to examine changing cultural interpretations of race. Her scholarship is especially interested in how racial perception impacts outcomes for health, wealth and social justice.
  • Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering, whose lab builds tools and approaches to field science that are both low-cost and extremely powerful, bringing science into parts of the world where traditional tools aren’t feasible – such as Abuzz, a mosquito monitoring platform for citizen scientists with smart phones.

The St. Lawrence String Quartet – Stanford’s ensemble-in-residence – will lead an interactive musical performance featuring selections from Joseph Haydn’s Opus 20.

The finalists will gather in small groups to tackle fun, design-thinking challenges led by instructors from Stanford’s, a hub for innovation, collaboration and creativity on campus.

In an evening conversation, Stanford Professor Condoleezza Rice, who served as U.S. secretary of state under President George W. Bush, will share her story with Hennessy, president emeritus of Stanford, where he is a professor of electrical engineering and of computer science.

Immersion Weekend also includes “Ask Us Anything” sessions with Hennessy and Wachtel.

The weekend will close with “Life and Leadership Through Storytelling,” an address by Abraham Verghese, a professor of medicine at Stanford and a critically acclaimed author who has written two memoirs – My Own Country and The Tennis Partner – and a novel, Cutting for Stone. Verghese is also known for his articles and talks on empathy and healing.

Wachtel said the program will announce its second cohort from Denning House, its future home, which is currently under construction on the west side of campus. Denning House, which will overlook Lake Lagunita, will have classrooms, meeting, lecture and discussion rooms, and a dining space for regular dinners and events.

Applications for the 2019 cohort of Knight-Hennessy Scholars will open in late April.