Thirty-nine of the most academically brilliant and socially committed young people in the US – including the University if New Mexico's Shaina Saint-Lot, will take up a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge, England, this fall as the program continues to expand.
"We are delighted to announce our new US Scholars," Professor Robert Lethbridge, provost (CEO) of the Gates Cambridge Trust, said. "They are an outstanding group of individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds. They fully meet the criteria of the Scholarship in being both intellectually outstanding and having a capacity for leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others. They should be proud of this achievement and we can expect much of them."
"I am honored to have received the Gates Cambridge Scholarship," Saint-Lot said. "As the first UNM student to receive this honor, I know that I am indebted to the university for providing the great professors, mentors and experiences that helped to reinforce my dedication to community development. My mentors and professors made me aware of almost every opportunity that has become a part of my life experiences. They pushed me to challenge myself and offered support even when I didn't know I needed it, for which I am forever grateful.
"I recognize that being a Gates Scholar is not only a great honor, but it is also a commitment. It is a commitment and responsibility to utilizing the educational opportunities I've been privileged to receive in improving the lives of others."
This year 11 U.S. colleges and universities, including the UNM, are represented for the first time. Public and private institutions ranging from liberal arts colleges to research universities are all represented. This brings the number of US institutions who have had Gates Cambridge Scholars to 183 since the program began in 2001.
"Being born and raised in Haiti, and moving to one of the richest countries in the world, made me clearly aware of the differences in quality of life among people worldwide," Saint-Lot said in her bio as part of her selection. "It never felt right to me that some people suffered and struggled so much while others lounged in luxury, and just because of the place they were born! I knew as a little girl that I wanted to improve the quality of life in places just like my homeland.
"As I spent more time in the U.S. though, I came to understand that inequality was a complex issue that directly affected wellbeing and quality of life, an unrestrictive issue affecting poor and rich countries alike. I look forward to researching the effects of inequality on wellbeing and development while exploring the grassroots organizations and state institutions that can spur this equitable growth."
The postgraduate-study program was established through a $210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001, which remains the largest single donation to a UK university. Competition for places is fierce and the program is unique in its emphasis on social leadership as well as outstanding academic ability.
The successful 39 candidates, who will study for a variety of one-year courses and Ph.D. degrees, were whittled down from an initial field of 750 applicants. The 83 shortlisted candidates were interviewed in Washington D.C. in early February by Cambridge and US academics.
"I would like to understand how weak institutions could be a hindrance to development and discover possible substitutions for specific institutions," Saint-Lot said. "I am excited to continue to build on my academic and research experience in the stimulating environment at Cambridge. My future plans are to work in community development in under-served countries by establishing sustainable and strong foundations for local economic growth. I would enjoy a job that allows me to empower the local population while best utilizing their resources and knowledge without compromising their social and cultural values."
The new U.S. Scholars will join 50 Scholars from other countries around the world, who will be announced this spring. At any one time there are almost 250 Gates Cambridge Scholars at the University Cambridge – one of the world's most ancient and prestigious universities.
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