Songqiao Yao '11 has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a master of philosophy degree in geographical research at the University of Cambridge. She is one of 95 recipients worldwide this year and the fourth Mount Holyoke graduate to win this prestigious award since 2003.
Yao majored in critical social thought with a minor in German studies, graduated summa cum laude, and was named to Phi Beta Kappa. She was the recipient of numerous awards at Mount Holyoke, including the Almara Research Fellowship for thesis archival research at Harvard’s Yen-Ching Library and the McCulloch Global Initiative Fellowship for ethnographic research in China.
Jonathan Lipman, the Felicia Gressitt Bock Professor of Asian Studies and Professor of History, was one of Yao’s thesis advisors and remembers her as an outstanding student and leader.
"Fair, calm, serious, and responsible, she spent her college years bringing people together to accomplish concrete tasks. Despite her work as an activist, she never let her academic standards slip, and she graduated summa cum laude,” said Lipman. “Songqiao exemplifies a combination of real-world commitment and academic excellence that Mount Holyoke can be proud of."
Since graduating, Yao has worked as for International Rivers, an organization committed to halting destructive river infrastructure projects while improving development policies and practices. In addition to establishing the organization’s China office, she has been monitoring and researching hydropower development in Southwest China. In 2013, Yao was awarded a $20,000 research grant from the National Geographic Global Explorer Fund to study ethnic ethnic minority rights along the Nu River.
—By Michelle Ducharme