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Scholar Close-Up: Wanyu Zhang

Scholar Close-Up: Wanyu Zhang

Children in rural China taught Wanyu about the social value of the law.
Wanyu Zhang
Photo: Holly Hernandez

Describe the community that you hope to create with your fellow Knight-Hennessy scholars.

I hope to create a scholar community that is creative and reflective. The mission of addressing world challenges today requires us to apply our knowledge in creative ways, to be open to cross-disciplinary dialogue, and to approach problems with design thinking. I hope that while we embark on our mission, we also be mindful of the considerable trust and support that the founders and donors of the Knight- Hennessy program have given us. I hope that reflecting on our privilege will humble us and motivate us throughout our time at Stanford and beyond.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your current academic interests?

I am inspired by the children from underprivileged backgrounds that I worked with in rural China. Their parents all suffered fatal work injuries but were unjustly denied compensations in courts. The kindness, maturity, and talents those children display while enduring emotional trauma and socio-economic disadvantages moved me deeply. A girl from the group used to look at me with her beautiful curious eyes and ask me about work injury law, and why her father lost in court. She made me realize that these laws should be inherently humane, as they are the final defense for vulnerable populations against preventable tragedy and suffering. I am pursuing a legal career in hopes of making the law more meaningful for them.

What excites you most about the program as it gets underway?

What excites me the most is the initiative we can take as the first class of scholars. The Knight-Hennessy team gives us so much trust and encouragement to set our own values and shape our own community. Since the summer, scholars have contributed great ideas about the conversations they want to have, speakers they want to invite, groups they want to form, and so on. Taking initiative gives me a sense of responsibility to create a community that is as open, reflective, and accountable as we make it. 

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