The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, which funds graduate study at Stanford, has announced its 2021 cohort of 76 new scholars, including the first students to join the program from Bangladesh, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Denning House, the convening hub of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, offers spaces for large meals, quiet study, casual conversation, small seminars and group collaborations. (Image credit: Henrik Kam)

Under the program, which provides up to three years of funding, students from 26 countries will join the Stanford community at the start of the 2021-22 academic year to begin graduate studies in 37 programs across campus.

The scholars – the fourth Knight-Hennessy Scholars cohort – will also participate in the King Global Leadership Program, which strives to develop inspiring, visionary leaders who have strong cross-cultural perspectives and are committed to the greater good.

Luke Anthony Peña, the program’s director of global admission and financial aid, said the 2021 cohort offers an inspiring preview of what leadership will look like in the near future.

More than half of the incoming scholars are women, and more than half of the scholars from the United States identify as a person of color. Nearly half of the incoming scholars hold passports from countries outside the United States. Nearly a quarter of the incoming scholars are the first in their family to attend college.

“Many of our scholars represent those in our country and our world who have the talent and ability to lead but have historically faced systemic barriers to leadership opportunities,” Peña said.

He said the incoming scholars will bring “determination, resilience and perseverance” to the Stanford community – qualities they demonstrated in their applications.

“Applying to graduate school is daunting under any circumstances, and our incoming scholars did so under conditions that might have deterred them, but for their unwavering commitment to solving our world’s most difficult challenges,” he said, referring to the pandemic that continues to disrupt life around the world.

“Their ability to succeed this past year gives us great optimism that they will continue to flourish and thrive at Stanford and beyond.”

Currently, 183 Knight-Hennessy Scholars are enrolled in graduate programs at Stanford.

Scholars in all seven Stanford schools

The 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholars will join graduate programs in every Stanford School: Business, Earth, Education, Engineering, Humanities & Sciences, Law and Medicine.

Seven of the incoming scholars will be enrolling in joint degree programs, including two students who will concurrently pursue a JD and a PhD, and another student who will concurrently pursue an MBA and a PhD.

Four graduate programs at Stanford will welcome their first Knight-Hennessy Scholars: art history, education data science, music and theater and performance studies.

The 2021 cohort of scholars includes one Stanford student and two alumni:

  • Joy Hsu, ’20, MS ’21, will pursue a PhD in computer science in the School of Engineering.
  • Olivia Hope Martin, ’19, will pursue a PhD in economics in the School of Humanities & Sciences and a JD in the Law School.
  • Nancy Xu, ’19, will pursue a PhD in computer science in the School of Engineering and an MBA in the Graduate School of Business.

A story about the 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholars with Stanford affiliations will appear in Monday’s Stanford Report.

Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Since 2020, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program has increasingly shifted its recruitment efforts from closed events for a limited audience to open events that anyone can attend – an updated strategy that offers equal access and multiple opportunities for students to learn about the program, regardless of where they live, study and work.

Peña said the essays that applicants submit to the program often provide deeply personal reflections about the formative people, places and events that shaped their lives.

“When we understand each applicant’s personal circumstances, we can better appreciate and calibrate their accomplishments relative to the opportunities that were offered to them,” he said.

The incoming Knight-Hennessy Scholars earned undergraduate degrees at 48 private and public colleges and universities around the world.

In the upcoming academic year, the program will welcome its first scholars from eight U.S. undergraduate institutions, including the University of Washington, Grinnell College in Iowa, Louisiana State University and the University of Rochester in New York.

In addition, the program will enroll its first scholars from 11 international undergraduate institutions – public and private, including Dalhousie University in Canada, the University of Cambridge in England and the University of Haifa in Israel.

“Stanford’s graduate departments are making tremendous strides in their efforts to attract, select and enroll applicants from historically underrepresented populations,” Peña said.

“The Knight-Hennessy Scholars team is delighted and excited that Stanford’s graduate departments are increasing their intake of students from diverse populations, which deepens the pool of potential scholars from which we select.”