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Meet the Indian students who BAGGED the Rhodes scholarship

Last updated on: November 21, 2011 14:24 IST

Meet the Indian students who BAGGED the Rhodes scholarship

Arthur J Pais
The newly announced batch of Rhodes scholars includes South Asians. The prestigious international scholarship is awarded to high academic achievers who are also active in sports and community work.

Ishan Nath, who is pursuing a double major at Stanford University in economics and earth systems with a focus on energy, devotes many hours a week for environmental causes outside his classroom. He has also taught, as a volunteer, environmental science to seventh graders in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nath, who has also worked at the Carter Center in his home town Atlanta, is the recipient of major scholarships Truman and Uddal scholarships. And now he is among 32 Americans to win the Rhodes, arguably the most prestigious of the international scholarships given to high academic achievers who are also active in sports and community work.

A marathon runner and a columnist for Stanford Daily, he has interned at the office of economic policy at the White House and served as a consultant to the US Department of Energy. He will be working on a MSc degree in economics for development at Oxford.

Other South Asians selected this year are Ayasha Bagchi, Anand R Habib and Mohit Agrawal.

The awards provide all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford. The winners were selected from 830 applicants endorsed by 299 colleges and universities.

The scholars will enter Oxford next October. Each scholarship is about $50,000 per year. Past winners include the playwright and actor Girish Karnad, the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the bestselling writer and physician Atul Gawande.

Aysha N Bagchi from Austin, who graduated from Stanford in June with degrees in philosophy and history and honors in ethics in society, is studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

She was on her way to Jerusalem when she heard of being selected as a Rhodes scholar. She is the 2011 winner of the Haas/Koshland Memorial Award, a grant that funds one student annually for a year of study and 'personal development in Israel'.

"I'm so thrilled, so grateful that they took a chance on me," she told J when she received the Israeli scholarship, adding her father's love of travel influenced her from a young age. She had been to Israel nearly four years ago with her father.

She added that she knew it was unusual for the committee to select a non-Jewish student.

"I didn't grow up in a religious family," she said, "but when you visit these religious sites, you learn so much about human nature, how people search for meaning. I've always been drawn to spiritual tradition."

She served as a member of Stanford's task force to review undergraduate education, held many roles on the Stanford Daily, and co-founded the Stanford Immigrant Rights Project. She plans to do the MPhil in politics at Oxford.

Anand R Habib from Houston, graduated from Stanford in June with a BS in biology and honors in international security studies.

He is on a global health fellowship in Haiti where he is working in a variety of community health programs. Winning top university awards for his academic work, he also distinguished himself as a leader of many public service programs at Stanford, per a press release by Rhodes Scholarship committee, in his communities in California and Texas, and in India, Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti. Anand plans to do masters' degrees in public policy and medical anthropology at Oxford.

Like several other Rhodes Scholars this year, Mohit Agrawal, West Lafayette, has received prestigious awards including Mitchell offered by the Irish government.

Agrawal who earned a BA in mathematics at Princeton last year and is doing a master's degree in economic policy evaluation at the National University of Ireland. He was co-president of Engineers Without Borders and worked with students and community leaders to construct the first library in Ashaiman, Ghana.

He also spent a semester at the National University of Singapore and developed tools for anti-cryptology systems for the National Security Agency. He plans to do the DPhil in financial economics at Oxford.

"I'm excited to be named a Rhodes Scholar for 2012," he said.

"My time in the UK will prove a fantastic opportunity to pursue my interest in the nexus of economics and policy, both in the classroom and out. My training in mathematics and economics at Princeton -- together with my experiences in Ireland, from study in Singapore, and from volunteering in Ghana -- will inform my perspective in studying the economic policy of Britain and Europe."

Image: Mohit Agarwal, one of the winners, teaches a class of students in Ghana