The Dalai Lama Fellowship at Stanford

A Collaboration of The Stanford Storytelling Project & the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life

Applications for the 2023-24 academic year have closed. Check back in spring quarter for next year’s application.

The Dalai Lama Fellowship at Stanford is a year-long opportunity for students to develop inner resources and skills to lead significant social change.  Fellows learn how and why leadership might be best understood as a set of capacities that allow one to meet the world authentically—capacities such as self-awareness, courage, compassion, and storytelling. They learn how to develop and apply these capacities through encounters with contemplative traditions and the arts, and by pursuing a specific social change project of their own choosing. The Fellowship’s ultimate goal is to help students use both contemplative and creative practices to enrich and sustain their efforts to bring about positive change in their communities.

This fellowship is part of the global Dalai Lama Fellowship program that you can read about here.

Current Fellows (2023-2024)

Ronny Abdullah (’26) is a sophomore majoring in Electrical Engineering and is deeply passionate about the intricate relationship between Electrical Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, and Neuroscience. His strong passion for these innovative fields inspires him to engage in impactful projects that tackle significant global issues. Beyond academics, Ronny is an avid fitness enthusiast, finding balance and inspiration through running and physical wellness.

Lizbeth Zambrano-Sanchez (’26) (she/her/ella) is an undergraduate scientist-activist at Stanford studying Earth Systems, focusing on justice, energy, and land. She is also a Mexican community organizer from the hood out of East Los Angeles and is ready to develop community-centered energy equity solutions. In her spare time, you can catch her spending time with loved ones, swimming, and reading poetry. 

Susanna Newsom (’26). I’m a sophomore at Stanford, and I’m passionate about the intersection of Christianity and social justice! I believe that “every act of selfless love is a declaration of faith” (shoutout Bob Goff) and Christianity is a calling to go towards suffering, be with people who are hurting, prioritize other people above ourselves (countercultural, right?), and let go of our agendas! I feel closest to God when I spend time with/in His creation, and I feel a special inclination toward mental health advocacy and prison reform. At Stanford, I’m a Psychology Major, Creative Writing Minor, Tour Guide, Bridge Peer Counselor, Outdoor Trip Leader, and member of RUF! I also recently performed in Gaieties, and, outside of school, I work with Elephant Havens (an elephant orphanage in Botswana) and spend most of my summers at Camp Greystone!

Jeannette Wang (’26) (she/her) is a sophomore studying political science and public policy. She is passionate about developing solutions that address national issues with local nuance. With the fellowship, she hopes to combat polarization on campus and create a culture of openness to a diversity of viewpoints along the political spectrum. 

Ezekiel Contreras-Forrest (’24) is a graduating senior at Stanford University. He is passionate about affecting change in marginalized communities at home and abroad. His project is centered around developing community centers for orphaned and foster youth. By developing this support, he hopes to give the youth opportunities to attain an education, develop their passions and live good lives in the future. 

Omkar Katre (’27)

Tenzin Choesang Scholer (’26)

Troy Schouten (’24)

Emma Thain (’25)

What Fellows do

Fellows take a special fall seminar, Holistic Student Development (EDUC 182/382) devoted to examining and practicing the skills needed for creating lasting social change.  Then, in winter and spring, fellows participate in weekly mentorship to develop a project aimed at addressing a specific, local challenge, developing leadership skills through contemplative and creative practice. All year long, Fellows also exchange perspectives and insights about leadership with other Dalai Lama Fellows from around the world.

What Fellows gain

Fellows learn both the theory and practice of skills that support effective, authentic leadership.  The fall course introduces fellows to the capacities that underlie both human development and leadership and to practices that help develop them.  These include capacities such as self-awareness, courage, perspective-taking, imagination, and compassion. Fellows learn pathways developed in both narrative arts and contemplative traditions for identifying and developing values and purpose, for witnessing and collaborating with others, and for communicating to create positive social change.

Fellows receive 3-units of credit for the fall course, and a $1,000 stipend for the winter and fall quarters to support the development of their projects.  They also become part of a supportive, life-long community of Dalai Lama Fellows from around the world, all committed to becoming more effective leaders and creating more flourishing in the world.

An Integrated Leadership Curriculum

The Fellowship’s unique Head, Heart, and Hands Curriculum offers each Fellow a dynamic learning journey informed by the latest theories and research on leadership, social innovation, and creative practice, and wisdom from our world’s contemplative traditions. The curriculum doesn’t merely deliver intellectual knowledge, but provides regular opportunities for active learning and practical applications of the content to Fellows’ everyday lives and social innovation efforts. Learning modules cover topics including mindful awareness, emotional intelligence, creating meaningful connections, navigating uncertainty, using power with care, storytelling, and more. The curriculum is focuses on three areas:

  • Head – Training the mind and attention, cultivating self-awareness, understanding systems
  • Heart – Harnessing the wisdom of the heart, deepening compassion, working across differences, navigating uncertainty
  • Hands – “Getting the hands dirty,” enacting wisdom and compassion in social innovation work


Core Values

We embrace and advance five core values as we conduct our work:

  • Integrity — We strive to be wholly honest and to have consistent alignment between our values and actions
  • Interdependence — We work in the interest of present and future generations because we are all connected and mutually dependent
  • Resilience — We meet challenges with optimism, ingenuity, flexibility, and grace
  • Humbition (Humility + Ambition) — We live with the questions rather than presume the answers, and ground social change with respect for others
  • Courage — We have strength to take action for moral reasons, despite doubts, fears or risk of adverse consequences


Who oversees the Fellowship

The Fellowship is led by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) and the Stanford Storytelling Project (SSP). The fall course is team-taught by anthony antonio (Associate Professor, School of Education), Tiffany Steinwert (Dean, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life), and Jonah Willihnganz (Director, Stanford Storytelling Project). Fellows are mentored in winter and spring by this team plus mentors drawn from Stanford Living Education (SLED) and the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI).

Who may apply

Any matriculating undergraduate or graduate student at Stanford.

How to apply

Fill out the form. Leaders of the program will communicate with applicants within a week of application once the process re-opens in Spring Quarter 2024. They will conduct brief interviews by Zoom when possible.