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Alphabet chairman offers graduate scholarships to Stanford for students worldwide

Students at the Graduate School of Business participate in a classroom discussion. Source: Facebook/Elena Zhukova

Every year, a scholars programme by Alphabet Chairman John Hennessy and Nike co-founder Philip Knight offers up to 100 high-achieving students from around the world a fully-paid postgraduate scholarship at their alma mater, Stanford University.

This year, Solomon Oyakhire from Lagos, Nigeria was one of the 49 applicants selected from a pool of 3,601 to receive the Knight-Hennessy scholarship, CNBC reported.

“When the call came, I was completely overwhelmed. I felt humbled, excited, and inspired to be considered worthy to join the family of scholars” said Solomon Oyakhire. The Nigerian students will be pursuing a PhD in chemical engineering.

The scholarship funds up to the first three years of your graduate education. For those pursuing an MD or PhD programme, ie. a degree programme longer than three years, Stanford’s respective home department will fund the remainder subject to its department’s standard funding commitment.

For the first three years, fellows will have their tuition, living and academic expenses as well as an economy-class ticket for one annual trip to and from Stanford covered by the scholarship, according to its website.

Students who engage in optional research projects during the summer or in social entrepreneurship can apply for additional funding from the program as well.

Hennessy, who is also Stanford’s 10th President and visionary behind the programme, believes higher education is a “good investment”.

Speaking to CNBC, the Silicon Valley veteran said there is a lot of pressure on the US federal government to help finance higher education — something Hennessy stated needs to change as student debt burdens soar.

“I think it is a mistake to let the burdens of the federal government budget fall, disproportionately, on people under the age of 25,” he said.

Loans for graduate students like Oyakhire are limited too, which is what the Knight-Hennessy scholarship aims to remedy.

With an endowment totaling more than US$750 million, the programme envisions there to be 5,000 Knight-Hennessy Scholars in 50 years time in governments, the arts, NGOs, businesses, and elsewhere.

“You just look down at Silicon Valley and at the string of companies that have had at least one of their founders born outside on the United States,” Hennessy said.

“Intel, Google, Yahoo, they all had someone from their founding team born outside the U.S.”

Another scholarship recipient, Abuzar Royesh from Afghanistan told CNBC “it’s important to have different people with different backgrounds be a part of shaping the discourse.”

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