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Jasmyn Burdsall

Jasmyn Burdsall '20 has been named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar. This highly-competitive award funds graduate studies at Stanford University for emerging leaders aiming to solve complex problems.

Santa Clara University psychology alumna Jasmyn Burdsall ’20 has been named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, a highly competitive award modeled after the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

The cohort of 76 Scholars includes citizens of 26 countries, and each recipient receives funding for up to three years at one of 37 graduate degree programs at Stanford University.

“Jasmyn has shown impressive focus, ingenuity, and creativity in all her endeavors, putting her talents in service of reducing violence against women and helping them recover from trauma,” said Acting SCU President Lisa Kloppenberg. “Through her remarkable intellectual development, purposeful leadership, and focused passion, she inspired those around her to believe in the power and resilience of the human spirit. We are tremendously proud of her accomplishments.”

As a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, Burdsall will use her studies to earn a M.S. degree in Stanford’s Community Health and Prevention Research program, conducting community-based research toward better, more culturally sensitive trauma diagnostics and treatments for minority and non-Western women.

From an early age, Burdsall has supported herself both academically and financially, and survived personal trauma including an assault at another, previous university, which fueled her passion for addressing violence against women. Burdsall, who grew up in Missoula, Montana, is part of the Blackfoot tribe and the oldest of five siblings. She moved 18 times attending 10 different schools before her high school graduation.

Throughout her collegiate career, she worked 40 hours a week on top of a full course load, but still was able to find mentors and what she calls “family stand-ins” from numerous corners of campus, including: Adjunct Lecturer Michele Parker and Assistant Professor Sonja Mackenzie in the Public Health program; Assistant Professor Birgit Koopmann-Holm in the Culture Impacts Emotion Lab in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); Lisa Osteraas in the Drahmann Center; and English Senior Lecturer Stephen Carroll, her mentor for the Global Social Benefit Fellowship at SCU's Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

At SCU she worked with Koopmann-Holm, through the CAS summer experiential REAL Program, conducting research into the varying ways people process emotional trauma. Also through REAL, she worked with Parker to develop UFEEL, a mental health app for SCU students that reduces disparities in mental health access. That work took her twice to the Western Psychological Association conference, to present on her studies.

One of the rare seniors to become a Global Social Benefit Fellow at Miller Center (the program usually admits juniors), she worked virtually last summer with Uganda-based KadAfrica, which helps women develop agricultural and life skills through programs centered on passion-fruit farming. Burdsall and her partner Nick Carson ’21 helped KadAfrica move into a brand new area of service—mental health—by developing a trauma-management curriculum for KadAfrica’s female clients, many of them refugees from other parts of Africa.

“Trauma creates a lot of cognitive barriers to learning and development,” said Burdsall, noting that Indigenous people and marginalized communities are especially poorly served by current trauma care. “In trauma, the logical part of your brain disconnects from the emotional part, you are in fight or flight. So this mental health curriculum is a really important intervention for learning and retaining all the great resources offered by KadAfrica.”

Burdsall hopes to continue working on these issues after Stanford, possibly becoming a social entrepreneur and bringing trauma-management tools to marginalized communities, including her own Montana Indigenous community.

“I’m so excited to connect with other scholars and get a really multidisciplinary perspective on mental health care, and to see how different people’s passions interact with my own view of social justice and mental health,” said Burdsall. “It’s an important opportunity to continue the work I was able to start at SCU, and really make a disruptive impact on these issues.”

Burdsall is the second Knight-Hennessy scholar from SCU, after biology alumna Hayley Raquer ’16, who was named to the inaugural cohort in 2018.

About the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program
The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program aims to “empower an exceptional cohort of graduate students to effect large-scale positive impact across the globe” in areas such as widening gaps in opportunity and income; declining livability caused by population growth and environmental degradation; social instability owing to structural inequality and intergroup conflicts; and persistent human health challenges despite rapidly rising costs.

Knight-Hennessy winner Jasmyn Burdsall