Four Yalies to study in United Kingdom as Gates Cambridge Scholars
Four Yale affiliates — two current undergraduates and two Yale College alumni — are among the 35 U.S. citizens named as Gates Cambridge Scholars for 2018.
They are Robert Henderson ’18, Malina Simard-Halm ’18, Jane Menton ’15, and Seth Kolker ’15.
Scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside of the United Kingdom to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. The scholarship program was established in 2000 with a gift of $210 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge, the largest-ever single donation to a U.K. university.
In addition to the 35 U.S. winners, 55 Gates Cambridge Scholars from countries other than the United States will be announced in late March.
Scholars are chosen for outstanding intellectual ability, leadership potential, a commitment to improving the lives of others, and for having qualifications and aspirations that are “a good fit” with the postgraduate program at the University of Cambridge for which they are applying. While at Cambridge, scholars pursue a full range of subjects throughout the university’s departments and colleges.
As an undergraduate studying psychology at Yale, Henderson became interested in moral reasoning and decision making. At the Yale Mind and Development Lab, he conducted research on moral development, examining intuitions about moral obligation and punishment. He also performed research at Stanford University’s Social Learning Lab, studying social cognition with a particular focus on the ability to infer the emotional states of others. A former foster youth and military veteran, he serves as a tutor for underprivileged children and a mentor for veterans interested in education.
He will pursue a Ph.D. in psychology at St. Catharine’s College at Cambridge.
“As a psychology student at Cambridge, I aim to investigate the psychological underpinnings of morality and prosocial behavior,” says Henderson. “Specifically, I am interested in what underlies generosity and how to promote more of it. I hope to share useful findings with the public in order to increase happiness, strengthen social bonds, and promote kindness. I am honored to join the Gates Cambridge community, made up of scholars who are committed to improving the lives of others.”
Simard-Halm concentrated her studies at Yale on the ethics and politics of the criminal justice system, with a particular emphasis on sentencing and alternatives to incarceration. She has worked with the Federal Public Defenders, the Legal Action Center (an advocacy organization for individuals with criminal records and substance abuse disorders), the New Haven Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, and Yale Students for Private Prison Divestment. She is one of the first children born to two gay fathers through assisted reproduction, and advocated for LGBTQ families in the courtroom and other settings. She serves as a member of the board of directors of the national nonprofit COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gay Everywhere).
She will pursue an M.Phil. in criminology at Murray Edwards College (New Hall) at Cambridge.
“While at Cambridge, I seek to further examine the limits of individual culpability in criminal sentencing, especially as they relate to racial and economic marginalization,” says Simard-Halm. “By integrating sentencing theory with the study of crime’s causes, I aspire to show that precluding identity markers of adversity from sentencing guidelines can often lead to more unjust outcomes. … I could not be more honored to be joining the Gates Cambridge community to work and learn with others committed to thoughtful and effective social change.”
Menton, who is from Tallahassee, Florida, pursued an interest in journalism while a Yale student by working at the Yale Daily News. That interest also shaped her academic pursuits, and she began to research the successes and failures of American journalism. She earned a B.A. in both history and global affairs (security studies). After college, she worked as a production assistant at CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” before going to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship to study modern Middle East studies. Since receiving her M.Phil. she has been working at Foreign Affairs magazine in New York.
“At Cambridge, my Ph.D. will focus on the relationship between the press, the public, and foreign policy in the new digital age,” says Menton. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to contribute researching a topic that feels more important now than ever, and I cannot wait to join the Gates community!”
While growing up in Arlington, Virginia, Kolker attended a bilingual elementary school at the footsteps of the nation’s capital, an experience that sparked his fascination with the intersection of culture and politics. After graduating from Yale, he taught math at a low-income public high school for three years. There, some students inspired him to co-found a ninth-grade academy and a course on “How To Change the World,” a program that he hopes to expand nationally. He has deferred his Gates Cambridge Scholarship for one year, as next year he will study public policy as a Schwarzman Scholar in Beijing.
At Cambridge, he will pursue an M.Phil. in education at St. Edmund’s College.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Gates community,” Kolker says. “I hope to compare educational programs around the world and contribute to rapidly shifting debates on what it means to be a citizen in the 21st-century. I plan to help build innovative institutions to develop the next generation of citizens in more just, effective, and democratic ways.”
Many Gate Cambridge applicants work with the Office of Funding and Fellowships in Yale’s Center for International and Professional Experience. Here, finalists can receive practice interviews and fellowships advice. Director of Fellowships, Rebekah Westphal, noted that ‘Yalies are particularly well-suited to the Gates Cambridge Scholarship because of its strong focus on service. I’m just thrilled for this year’s cohort: they are an outstanding and inspiring group.’
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