Two 2006 graduates win Gates Cambridge scholarshipsBy Julia Morse
As Karen McClendon was waiting to conduct her final Gates Cambridge scholarship interview, she was surprised to see one of her closest friends exiting the interview room.
“I didn’t even know he had applied for the scholarship,” McClendon said of fellow 2006 College graduate Anyu Fang. But McClendon needn’t worry about competing with her good friend; in early February, after months of interviews, McClendon and Fang both received word that they were among the approximate 100 students who were named 2007 Gates Cambridge scholars.
The scholarship, which was created in 2000 by a $210 million donation by Bill and Melinda Gates, funds graduate study at the University of Cambridge for students from all over the world.
“It is a wonderful gift, and I am extremely excited,” said McClendon, who graduated with honors in 2006, receiving her A.B. in International Studies.
At Chicago, McClendon was on the Dean’s List throughout college and received many honors, including a Heyman scholarship, an award from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, a Ronald McNair scholarship, an International BA Travel Grant and a PAX Christi USA Thesis Grant. She also served as a Ford Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute Intern.
McClendon, who is currently working at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., was born in Peru and also lived in Venezuela as a child—experiences she says have allowed Latin American socio-political issues to always remain close to her heart as an adult.
“My studies at the University of Chicago and on the field have only increased my interests,” she said. “At Cambridge, I want to explore why this region hasn’t developed as other regions have—economically, socially, politically. This is a wonderful time for me now because I will be further exploring something so near and dear to my heart.”
When she begins her graduate program at the University of Cambridge next fall, McClendon said she would be working toward a M.Phil. in Latin American Studies.
As a Chicago undergraduate, she studied abroad three times: in France, El Salvador and South Africa. McClendon noted that those experiences living abroad also have contributed to her ever-growing interest in international development issues.
“At the end of the day, poverty is no different in Latin America than it is in the rest of the world,” she said. “Cultures may change, but fundamental issues remain the same.”
McClendon’s hope is that in 10 or 20 years she will be working in U.S. politics, either domestic or international.
“All of my educational, career and life experiences—including being named a Gates Cambridge scholar—have and will continue to contribute to my passions and my dreams,” she said.
For Fang, education is what gave him many of the opportunities in his life.
“I feel very fortunate at this moment in my life,” said Fang, who received a degree in Economics from the College in 2006. “Education has been everything to me since I came to this country from China in fifth grade. Without education, I would not have learned to speak English or attended school at Chicago or received this Gates Cambridge scholarship. It has truly made my life what it is today.”
Like his educational experience at Chicago, Cambridge will offer Fang the interdisciplinary curriculum in which he thrives.
“I will use my interest in economics and go beyond, extending it into other areas,” he said, adding that at Chicago he was able to view courses with many perspectives and took classes not only in economics, but also in anthropology, linguistics, sociology and geography. “Cambridge will be an ideal place to continue this academic venture, as the program forces you to study under many professors in several different departments.”
Currently working at the Congressional Hunger Center in Washington, D.C., Fang lists his academic and career interests as poverty, housing, homelessness, displacement, human rights, social justice and migrant communities.
“I tapped into my passions at the University of Chicago and am now really allowing them to grow,” he said.
Like McClendon, Fang also studied abroad in South Africa and France while a College student at Chicago.
“I think it is very telling that both Karen and I are alums of Chicago’s South Africa program,” he said. “That is a program that keeps you thinking about social issues and leaves you changed forever.”
Also as an undergraduate, Fang completed internships with Congressman Gregory Meeks, Amnesty International and the Department of Housing in Fairfax, Va.
During his current fellowship at the Congressional Hunger Center, Fang is specializing in the Food Stamp Program. He is working on missions with the CAFB (California Association of Food Banks) and the National Immigration Law Center. He also has worked on the establishment of CAFB’s MyFoodStamps.org, which was launched last month as a resource for food stamp outreach workers, food assistance advocates and potential program clients in California.
A University College Honor scholar, Fang also was named a Harry S. Truman scholar in 2005.
“Between Chicago and Cambridge, I am thrilled to have been as lucky as I’ve been to complete my education in such vibrant, interdisciplinary worlds,” Fang said.