Date December 21, 2023
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Brown students, recent alumni earn prestigious scholarships

Two undergraduates, one graduate student and four recent graduates were named among this year’s classes of Marshall, Schwarzman and Voyager scholars.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In recognition of their own academic achievements and Brown University’s commitment to developing exceptional scholars, seven students and recent graduates earned spots in the most recent cohorts of the prestigious Marshall, Schwarzman and Voyager scholars.

“I am enormously proud of this year's fellowship recipients, as well as all of our finalists and applicants for these and other remarkable fellowships,” said Assistant Dean of the College for Fellowships Joel Simundich. “It takes conviction for a student to pursue their dreams and courage to even apply. I hope all students at Brown see in their peers recognized here that same conviction and courage in themselves.”

Class of 2022 alumnae Jamila Beesley and Kaitlan Bui were awarded Marshall Scholarships, which provide full funding for two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom, where both will attend the University of Oxford. Fifty-one Marshall Scholars — the largest class since the program’s founding in 1954were chosen from 1,006 applicants from around the U.S.

Two recent graduates of Brown and one graduate student — Felipe Félix Méndez, Zlatko-Salko Lagumdzija and Ruochen Sun, respectively — earned honors as 2024 Schwarzman Scholars. Modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship, the Schwarzman provides full funding for students to pursue a one-year master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s most prestigious universities. This year’s class includes 150 scholars from 43 countries, chosen from a pool of over 4,000 applicants.

Brown juniors Khushi Patel and Bart Hearn were named to the 2023-25 cohort of Voyager scholars as awardees of the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, which enables each winner to pursue meaningful travel experiences — with the help of a 10-year, $20,000 post-graduate stipend — with a network of mentors and leaders to support them through careers in public service.

For each of Brown’s winners, their award will give them the opportunity to further their impact on the world through international study.

Marshall Scholarship

Headshot of Jamila BeesleyJamila Beesley, Class of 2022

Bethlehem, New York

Class of 2022 graduate Jamila Beesley earned her bachelor’s degree in American studies and international and public affairs from Brown. She wrote her senior thesis on intra-community caste discrimination in South Asian American diasporic spaces through a gendered lens, which earned her three separate prizes from the departments of American studies, South Asian studies, and gender and women’s studies.

Beesley will pursue two degrees as a Marshall Scholar — starting at the University of Oxford with a master’s in migration studies, followed by a second master’s in digital sociology at the University of Edinburgh. She said her desire to further her thesis work inspired her decision to apply for the Marshall Scholarship, and the opportunity to pursue two different programs at two different universities played perfectly into her research focus.

“I am particularly interested in how the United States and United Kingdom migration regimes interplay with caste and Hindu nationalism in the present day,” Beesley said.

Following the Marshall Scholarship, Beesley she hopes to attend law school, but is open to any path that will allow her to harness her research to implement culturally specific civil rights and immigration support for caste-oppressed South Asian and other marginalized communities.

“I am sure in the ever-changing world we live in, new opportunities and avenues for enacting change will arise, and I hope to continue to learn and evolve with this work,” Beesley said. “I want to lean into the uncertainty and see where this work takes me.”


headshot of Kaitlan BuiKaitlan Bui, Class of 2022

Orange County, California

Class of 2022 graduate Kaitlan Bui earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature and East Asian studies from Brown, where her research synthesized community oral histories, poetry and diasporic Vietnamese mixed-media to generate a literary re-imagining of Saigon’s fall in 1975 and the “boat people.” Bui was awarded multiple honors during her undergraduate studies, including Royce and Cogut Institute fellowships. Since graduating, she has been living and writing in Vietnam after a year teaching English as a Fulbright fellow.

"I applied to the Marshall scholarship in part because I crave experience, in part because there is so much more to be said about Vietnam, memory, my family, and ordinary life," Bui said. "So many people created home for me where often it felt unfindable. I want to do that for others in my writing and my work."

As a Marshall Scholar, Bui will pursue two master’s degrees — one in refugee and forced migration studies at the University of Oxford and the other in South East and Pacific Asian studies at SOAS University of London.

Bui hopes to work in the intersection of education, research, community-building and creative practices, as both a writer and professor. 

"I believe in the power of art to free us," she said. "As [poet] Ocean Vuong says, 'We first need to articulate the future we want before stepping into it.'"

Schwarzman Scholars

headshot of felipe mendezFelipe Félix Méndez, Class of 2022

Panama City, Panama

Felipe Félix Méndez earned his bachelor’s degree in international and public affairs and Latin American and Caribbean studies from Brown in 2022.

Méndez’s work is informed by his upbringing in Panama. He co-founded CareerBridge, a nonprofit that provides free career counseling to students in Panama, started the Spanish-language edition of the largest weekly newspaper in Southern New England, and developed a policy report that identifies shortcomings in Panama’s development model and offers recommendations to bolster its institutions and economy.

Since graduating, Méndez has furthered the work of his thesis, which focused largely on domestic policy, by exploring how Panama can better align its foreign policy with its development strategy. In his current position at the Atlantic Council, Méndez investigates how Latin American and Caribbean countries can leverage partnerships with the United States and the European Union to advance inclusive economic opportunity.

The Schwarzman scholarship offers the perfect venue to continue his research, he said.

“Understanding China’s international development cooperation will help me formulate a comprehensive strategy for Panama’s global engagement to serve the needs of its people,” Méndez said. “I am thrilled to delve into these questions — and to do so alongside a diverse and vibrant community of scholars who feel similarly passionate about their own endeavors — as a Schwarzman Scholar.”


headshot of salko lagumdzijaZlatko-Salko Lagumdzija, Class of 2021.5

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Zlatko-Salko Lagumdzija graduated from Brown as a “.5er” in December 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is furthering his studies as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a graduate fellow at the National Institute of Health’s Cancer Data Science Lab, where he conducts research in computational biology. 

Lagumdzija credits his time at Brown with exposing him to different types of learning and analyzing the world, rounding out his computer science education with courses in philosophy and political science. The collaboration across disciplines also taught him the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to his future trajectory; rather than focusing on a specific plan, Lagumdzija is driven by the values that underscore his research, wherever it takes place.

“[Brown] gave me the confidence to embark on something different,” Lagumdzija said. “You could say I’ve taken the idea that ‘life is the Open Curriculum’ to heart. I’m looking for unexpected places with a lot of leverage where my technical skills can substantially push the needle forward.”

Lagumdzija is the first scholar in Schwarzman history from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and hopes to learn from the rich educational start-up scene in China. As China’s role in Eastern Europe and the Balkans becomes more prominent, Lagumdzija said he was drawn to the Schwarzman program because of the opportunity to better understand Chinese values and approaches to business and society. 


headshot of ruochen sunRuochen Sun, Class of 2024

Beijing, China

Ruochen Sun graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Tulane University and will earn a master of public affairs from Brown next spring. 

Sun’s passion lies in international and public affairs, and during his time at Tulane, he engaged with young people in New Orleans through community-based education and mentoring, and as a teaching assistant at a local school.

With a focus on enhancing communication and collaboration between China and other countries, Sun said the Schwarzman scholarship is the perfect opportunity to further his professional goals. But the award is also personal: Sun’s parents, both Tsinghua University alumni, met there as undergraduate students.

“I never got the chance to study there, as I came to the states for my education,” he said. “The Schwarzman scholarship is a great opportunity for me to experience Tsinghua, and a great connector for my overseas-studying background and future career in China.”

Voyager Scholarship

headshot of khushi patelKhushi Patel, Class of 2025

Detroit, Michigan

Brown junior Khushi Patel is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health and international and public affairs.

“Last summer, I hit a point where I needed a sign to know if I should continue pursuing public service,” Patel said. “This scholarship was that sign.”

Patel said was re-energized by the mission of the Obama Foundation scholarship — to give students the opportunity to engage with communities around the world and carry out meaningful public service projects — and she expects her coursework at Brown will be influenced by her experiences in the two-year cohort.

Currently, her research interests lie at the intersection of public organizations and private capital markets: “I’m interested in impact investing and diverting private capital into organizations that are intentionally doing good,” she said.

As part of her role as a Voyager, Patel is preparing to participate in annual summits and mentorship sessions, and she’s already thinking ahead toward future travel itineraries, like a trip to India to help boost the country’s micro-finance economy.


headshot of bart hearnBart Hearn, Class of 2025

Clinton, New York

Brown junior Bart Hearn is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health, with an eye toward a career addressing disparities in access and quality of care.

He originally came to Brown seeking to study chemistry, but an influential internship with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) led him in a different direction.

"I was moved by constituents’ stories and struggles within the health care system," Hearn said.  

Hearn’s interests are vast and varied. In addition to his work in health and government, he is an accomplished violist in the Brown University Orchestra and several chamber groups. As a mentor with Community MusicWorks, Hearn also taught viola, violin and cello to children in the greater Providence area.