Student Stories

Two UChicago graduates named Knight-Hennessy Scholars

College alumni Salma Elkhaoudi and Kirk Lancaster to pursue graduate studies at Stanford University

University of Chicago alumni Salma Elkhaoudi, AB’19, and Kirk Lancaster, AB’18, have been selected as Knight-Hennessy Scholars and will receive full funding to pursue graduate studies at Stanford University. 

The scholarship program aims to provide a new generation of global leaders with the skills to develop solutions to the world’s most complicated challenges. The cohort of 76 scholars was selected from an international pool of applicants based on their demonstration of independence of thought, purposeful leadership and civic mindset. Each recipient will be offered leadership training, mentorship and experiential learning opportunities.

“The College is very proud to see graduates like Kirk and Salma named as Knight-Hennessy Scholars,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “This is an affirmation not only of their remarkable academic accomplishments, but also the shared commitment of our students to apply their education to civic and scholarly leadership.”

Technological advances on behalf of human rights

Salma Elkhaoudi earned a bachelor's degree in political science, with a minor in human rights, from the College in 2019. She will be pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. 

A portrait of Salma Elkhaoudi
Salma Elkhaoudi, AB'19 (Photo courtesy of Knight-Hennessy Scholars)

Originally from Casablanca, Morocco, Elkhaoudi was actively engaged in Student Government during her time in the College and was elected vice president of administration as a second-year. She also spent time researching and, through multiple internships, working with migrant communities across Greece, Lebanon, Turkey and the U.S.

“These internships gave me unparalleled insight into the various perspectives and lived situations of marginalized people around the world, something that pulled me out of the ivory tower and into situations where degrees are irrelevant,” she said. “I can't possibly explain how crucial this was to my development as a person and as an academic.”

Since graduating, Elkhaoudi has worked as a technology research analyst at the Gartner Research Board, focusing on corporate digital investments, data ethics and how technological disruptions can be responsibly leveraged to make life easier. She has also collaborated with faculty at New York University to research the effects of migration and spirituality on early childhood education and parenting among refugees. 

Elkhaoudi’s scholarly interests converge on technology and the human experience, with an emphasis on the intersection between digital surveillance, self-conceptualization and human rights. She will be the first person in her extended family to pursue a Ph.D., an honor she said is both humbling and exhilarating. 

“Being awarded the privilege of joining a community like the Knight-Hennessy Scholars makes me more confident and excited in my potential as a doctoral student and as a scholar in my discipline,” she said. “I’ll be starting my graduate journey alongside such a brilliant lineup of fellow scholars from all over the world, and I can’t wait to learn from them.”

Interdisciplinary perspectives on international policy

Kirk Lancaster, originally from Neenah, Wis., graduated from the College in 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, and law, letters, and society. He will be pursuing a J.D. at Stanford Law School and a master’s degree in international policy at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. 

A portrait of Kirk Lancaster
Kirk Lancaster, AB'18 (Photo by Zola Yi)

As an undergraduate student, Lancaster studied abroad as a David L. Boren Scholar in China, where he was first drawn toward international law and politics. Studying Mandarin at Tsinghua University’s IUP program in Beijing and working in a nanomaterials laboratory in Shanghai that year helped him learn about the importance of building global partnerships, he said.

“I was both inspired by the personal connections I made in China, and assured in my commitment that the United States has a unique capacity to be a force for good in the world,” he said. “After returning from China, I was fortunate enough to complete an internship at the State Department’s Office of Chemical and Biological Weapons Affairs, which solidified these notions.”

After graduating, he spent one year as a junior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., researching nuclear strategy, doctrine and proliferation in South Asia, as well as Chinese foreign policy in the region. He is now a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he studies Chinese foreign and security policy, U.S.-China relations and national security issues in Asia.

Lancaster said being a part of the Knight-Hennessy program will allow him to pursue advanced study of his intersecting interests of law, technology and international politics at Stanford.

“I feel blessed to have the opportunity and acknowledge how catalytic my time in the College was, as well as the instrumental role of my mentors along the way,” he said. “I expect the greatest part of the Knight-Hennessy experience will be immersing myself in the scholar community, working with and leaning on a diverse group of leaders who are changing the world.”

Lancaster and Elkhaoudi received support from the College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF), which supports undergraduates and recent College alumni through highly competitive national and international fellowships. 

—This article also appears on the UChicago News website.