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Laurisa Sastoque named Gates Cambridge Scholar

Northwestern senior will study in the UK as part of the University of Cambridge’s flagship international postgraduate scholarship program
laurisa sastoque
Laurisa Sastoque’s journey leading up the Gates Cambridge Scholarship has been a combination of humanitarian research and artistic ventures.

Laurisa Sastoque, a senior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has received a 2023 Gates Cambridge Scholarship. This award recognizes Sastoque and others in her cohort as not only accomplished academics, but also as emerging leaders who will be responding to today’s most pressing challenges facing the world. Gates Cambridge scholars are awarded the opportunity to complete a fully funded graduate degree at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“The structure of the program allows me to build a digital output of my choice that will culminate my academic study,” said Sastoque, a native of Bogota, Colombia, who plans to study digital humanities. “I will be adapting my senior thesis into a GIS interactive map that analyses the complex relationships between Colombian identity and drug trafficking in the U.S. I am looking forward to learning more about what it means to use digital tools to answer human questions.”

Sastoque’s journey leading up to receiving the award has been multifaceted — a combination of humanitarian research and artistic ventures. While at Northwestern, she’s worked with the Posner Research Program, the Brady Scholars Program, the Kaplan Humanities Program and the Leopold Fellowship program. She also taught dance with the Dale Duro Latin Dance Group and produced a creative writing thesis comprised of short stories.

However, it was her participation in the Kaplan Humanities Program that first introduced Sastoque to the digital humanities.

“The field offers a perfect combination of my interests in humanities and technology,” she said.

Since the program was established in 2000 through a $210 million dollar donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates Cambridge has awarded 2,100 scholarships to students from 112 countries who represent more than 700 universities. This year’s class of 77 Gates Cambridge Scholars from 32 countries will begin their studies in October.

“Being awarded the Gates-Cambridge scholarship represents a very important accomplishment,” Sastoque said. “Four years ago, in Bogota, Colombia, I never thought I would have the opportunity to pursue a fully funded master’s degree in one of the world’s most renowned universities. I am very grateful to everyone in my family and my surroundings who has supported me through this journey.”

“Laurisa is remarkable — a published novelist, an experienced museum curator, a choreographer, a historian and much more; her tireless work and her spectacular array of talents determined her success,” said Laurisa’s adviser Elizabeth Pardoe, director of Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships.

“Laurisa is our 17th Gates Cambridge Scholar, but she is our first international student to join the cohort,” Pardoe said. “I want to underscore the importance of Laurisa’s achievement as a signal to all our international students that your opportunities are not curtailed by your citizenship. Too frequently international students think — wrongly — that all fellowships require U.S. nationality. I hope our Wildcats from around the world read about Laurisa and allow their imaginations to take flight with expanded dreams for their own futures.”

Learn more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship by contacting Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships.