Anoma Bhat ’14 has been named one of the 49 inaugural members of Stanford University’s new Knight-Hennessy Scholars program. The program, which provides full funding for any Stanford graduate program, plus a generous living stipend, was launched to bring together an interdisciplinary cohort of young scholars and leaders prepared to develop creative solutions to some of the world’s thorniest problems.
Bhat is one of only three Knight-Hennessy Scholars to have attended a liberal arts college.
Stanford received over 3,600 applications for the program, of which only 49 were selected for the “pioneer cohort” (Stanford plans to grow the program up to 100 students per year). The cohort includes citizens of 20 countries pursuing degrees in 28 departments across Stanford University.
Bhat, who graduated magna cum laude from CMC with a degree in Religious Studies and a sequence in Gender Studies, will enroll in Stanford’s MA in International Public Policy (MIPP) program and spend the next two years studying global governance and development. The program is especially suited to her unique background and focus: Bhat grew up in India, Singapore, China, Vietnam, and the US, where she developed an ability to move easily between cultures, a passion for international affairs, and an early awareness of how inequality and conflict play out at local and transnational levels.
When she came to CMC, she was excited to be able to explore the nexus of religion, politics, and conflict as a Religious Studies major. While at CMC, she received a Boren Scholarship to study Arabic intensively in Jordan, bringing the number of languages she speaks proficiently to five. The skills she gained have allowed her to spend the past two and a half years working for nonprofit FHI 360 on USAID-funded civil society and peacebuilding projects across the Middle East and South Asia. Prior to that, she worked as a legal assistant at a civil rights law firm in San Francisco.
Bhat credits CMC and the Claremont Colleges more broadly with helping her cultivate the skills necessary for selection as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.
“The KHS program looks for independence of thought, purposeful leadership, and a civic mindset,” she explained. “Through courses I took in Religious Studies and Gender Studies, I learned to think critically, articulate independent opinions, and write well. Through my extracurricular activities – especially working at the Queer Resource Center and the Asian American Resource Center – I had the opportunity to take initiative and serve as a leader in affecting social change.”
In particular, she credits Associate Professor of Religious Studies Daniel Michon, as well as Professors Zayn Kassam (PO) and Pardis Mahdavi (PO, now at the University of Denver), with helping her think about systems of inequality and power on a global scale. Then-director of the Queer Resource Center Adriana di Bartolo and Reverend Brad Tharpe of the Chaplains’ Office were also sources of tremendous personal support for her.
Bhat first learned about the Knight-Hennessy program from a friend and began seriously considering it after reaching out to Brian Davidson ’08, Director of Fellowships Advising, who encouraged her to apply and helped her throughout the process. By the time she was invited to Stanford to interview as a finalist, the interdisciplinary nature of the program truly stood out to her.
“As someone who wants to tackle complex challenges in global governance, it will be a privilege to learn from the unique perspectives and experiences of such a diverse cohort of peers,” she said.
Now, she will get a chance to make direct connections with peers and practitioners from around the world, with an aim to influence American development policy in her later career so that local stakeholders, especially women, minorities, and other marginalized groups, have a greater voice in contributing to the US government's democracy, rights, and governance development strategies in the Middle East and South Asia.