Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 25, 2011

Tibetan refugee named Rhodes scholar

Human rights activist Tenzin Seldon one of five Stanford awardees this year

by Chris Kenrick

After a childhood spent in a Tibetan refugee village filled with monks and prayer flags, Stanford University senior Tenzin Seldon said she will "carry the moral obligation of the Tibetan people" as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University next fall.

Seldon was among five Stanford students and alumni named 2012 Rhodes scholars Sunday — a record number for the university chosen to represent the United States.

Seldon, who moved to the United States as a teenager and has been active in Students for a Free Tibet, said she will bring to Oxford "the sentiments and struggles of all displaced people, political refugees, economic refugees and migrant workers.

"I see myself as a human rights activist — a facilitator and a bridger," said the 22-year-old comparative race and ethnicity studies major. When the Dalai Lama visited Stanford in October 2010, she set up a meeting for him with 150 Chinese scholars, academics and students from Stanford, San Jose State University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Seldon was born and raised in the Tibetan exile community of Dharamsala in northern India, where her parents worked for the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile. Her first language was Tibetan. She also speaks Hindi and Nepali.

When she was 3, her mother left for the United States after winning an immigration lottery. Seldon, her father and two brothers did not follow for more than a decade.

During her sophomore year at Stanford, Seldon's Gmail account was one of several Google accounts that the company said had been hacked by the Chinese government in what Google described as "a highly sophisticated and targeted attack" on its corporate infrastructure.

Seldon said she hopes to use her education to facilitate meaningful dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetan government in exile.

Other Stanford students and alumni named Rhodes scholars are:

* Aysha N. Bagchi of Austin, Texas, is a 2011 graduate studying this year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Bagchi was a member of Stanford's task force on undergraduate education, a columnist for the Stanford Daily and a co-founder of the Stanford Immigrant Rights Project. She plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy in politics at Oxford.

* Anand R. Habib of Houston, Texas, is a 2011 graduate currently working on community health programs at a clinic in Haiti through Medical Missionaries. At Stanford, he worked on behalf of political and medically disenfranchised people in India, Mexico and Guatemala, helping to raise more than $100,000 to combat HIV/AIDS. He plans to pursue a master's degree in public policy and medical anthropology at Oxford.

* Ishan Nath of Atlanta, Ga., is a Stanford senior majoring in economics and earth systems, with a minor in math. Nath, who worked as an intern in the White House Office of the Vice President, is writing a thesis on clean energy and a national cap-and-trade emissions trading system. He plans to pursue a master's degree in economics for development at Oxford.

* Katherine Niehaus of Columbia, S.C., earned a bachelor's in biomechanical engineering in 2010 and a master's in bioengineering in 2011. She is interested in the application of biomechanics to high-technology entrepreneurship. Niehaus captained Stanford's varsity track and cross-country teams and also tutored low-income students. She plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy in systems approaches to biomedical science at Oxford.

Rhodes scholars are selected for scholarly achievement, character, commitment to others and to the common good and for their potential for leadership in their chosen careers.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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