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Northwestern Journalism Graduate Named Marshall Scholar

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November 23, 2004

Northwestern University double graduate Ankur Bahl, son of Manju and Sadharshan Bahl of Santa Clara, Cal., has been named a 2005 Marshall Scholar. Bahl earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in 2003 in an accelerated program.

He will use his scholarship to study at the University of London. A member of the 2004 World Champion Jump Rope Team, Bahl will pursue a master’s degree in migration and diaspora studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies and a second master’s in performance at Goldsmiths College. His passion for jump rope has taken him to competitions around the country and globe.

A student of Indian classical dance since age six, Bahl is now on a Fulbright Scholarship in France studying Western dance traditions. He is interested in melding Indian and Western dance to create an art form that will speak to the experience of Indian immigrants.

“Ankur was, without question, one of the very brightest students I have ever taught, a kind of Renaissance man,” said Joseph Angotti, director of Medill’s broadcast program. “From the first time I had him in class, there was no doubt whatsoever that he could achieve whatever he wished.”

An American-born child of Indian immigrants, Bahl says he pursued journalism because he “wanted to become a voice for people like me and my family.” At Northwestern, he produced, wrote, edited and narrated a television documentary about the reactions of Serbian- and Bosnian-Americans living in the same Chicago neighborhood to the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. For print media, he wrote about the climate of fear faced by immigrants after 9/11 and other issues.

In pursuing migration studies and performance, Bahl continues to prepare himself as a voice for his community. He hopes to create performances about Indian migrants that encourage broader understanding between native-born and immigrant people.

Bahl also seeks to debunk the image of Asian Americans in general and Indians in particular as “the model minority.” The stereotype that views all Indians as doctors, lawyers or engineers belies the fact that there are Indian artists and obscures the many problems facing Indian immigrants, including discrimination, he says.

Bahl took up the sport of jump rope at the age of 10 and, between graduating from Northwestern and leaving for France on his Fulbright, spent nearly half a year training for the 2004 World Jump Rope Tournament in Australia. A member of the champion “Jumping for Joy” team, he is determined to make jump rope an Olympic sport.

Bahl credits his success to his parents who always encouraged his artistic interests. Being the son of Indian immigrants, he says, is key to his identity. At Northwestern, he was the first Asian American elected to be Homecoming King and founder of an Asian American improvisational comedy troupe called WASABI! He also was a member of the Kappa Tau Alpha Journalism Academic Honor Society.

The prestigious Marshall Scholarships were established in 1953 as a British gesture of thanks to the people of the United States for assistance received after World War II under the Marshall Plan.

Financed by the British Government, the Marshall Scholarships provide an opportunity for American students who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership potential to continue their studies for two years at any British university.