This fall, Isaac Cui '20 will embark on his latest academic adventure: entering the J.D. program at Stanford Law as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.
It's hard enough for a student to receive one prestigious scholarship, let alone two, but that's exactly what Cui has done — after graduating from Pomona College as a physics and politics major, he crossed the Atlantic to attend the London School of Economics (LSE) on a Marshall Scholarship. This fall, he will have earned his master's degrees in regulation and applied social data science from LSE.
"I was intellectually curious about England," Cui says. "More broadly, I haven't spent much of my life outside of the United States, and this gave me a more international, less American-centric perspective of the world."
Cui, who hails from Beaverton, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, initially planned on going straight from Pomona to law school, but when a professor told him about the Marshall Scholarship the summer before his senior year, Cui decided to apply. With the United States and United Kingdom having shared cultures and historical institutions, he was intrigued by the idea of learning more about constitutional law while in England, and said the Marshall Scholarship gave him the opportunity to "get off the treadmill" and take a brief detour on the way to law school.
His fortuitous experience at the LSE has prepared Cui for Stanford Law, where as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar he will participate in workshops, lectures, and projects with the King Global Leadership Program. When Cui learned that he received the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship, he was "honestly surprised," instantly feeling "profound gratitude."
"It's such an amazing opportunity," Cui adds. "I'm humbled by it."
Cui's interest in law developed during his high school years, and while at Pomona, he spent the spring semester of his sophomore year in Washington, D.C., interning at the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division while taking night classes taught by Claremont McKenna professors. He paid close attention to the Supreme Court cases around partisan gerrymandering and was "blown away" by the work being done in the Civil Rights Division on voting rights.
"In terms of the people that were there and the issues that motivated them — for really powerful reasons that spoke to me," Cui says.
He would like to become a public interest lawyer, potentially working as a public defender, at a public interest firm, and for the government "to see what fits best," he said. "I feel strongly that civil rights work, in particular voting rights, is most compelling to me."
While at Pomona, Cui met several professors who quickly became his role models, including Politics and International Relations Prof. Heidi Nichols Haddad; Politics Prof. Amanda Hollis-Brusky; Astronomy Prof. Phil Choi; Physics Prof. Dwight Whitaker; and Physics Prof. Janice Hudgings. He continues to ask them for advice and guidance as he makes major, and sometimes difficult, decisions in his life, and said he trusts in their ability to "exercise and model good judgement. ... I don't think I could have gotten anywhere near where I am without these people."
Cui found that at Pomona, everyone has their own niche interests, allowing students to optimize themselves. “They get to do their own thing and really get into it, and have all the support they need. You're treated as an individual." His professors encouraged him to get curious about the world, putting in the time to conduct research and ask questions, and he feels "really lucky" to be part of such a community.
"Pomona is a very special place with extraordinary people," he says.