Serene Singh aspires to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and she has a resume, mind and heart that could drive her there
Follow your heart.
That’s the advice I give the many students who ask me how to choose from the diverse array of degree possibilities at the University of Colorado Boulder. When you follow your personal passion, you wake up in the morning excited to get after every day. That’s when you do your best. Do what you are passionate about doing and life seems more like a daily gift and less like a daily grind.
Serene Singh is a classic example. Serene aspires to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and she has a resume, mind and heart that could drive her there.
She is the first woman from CU Boulder to be named a Rhodes Scholar, and she’s in good company. Former Supreme Court Justices David Souter and John Marshall Harlan II were also Rhodes Scholars. So was CU Boulder student (and football star) Byron White, who was named a Rhodes Scholar 80 years ago and was later the first Coloradan to serve on the high court.
Where is my sweet spot, and am I really being true to who I am? If I didn’t have that conversation with myself, I might be in a very different major and a very different part of my life right now.”
Following their path, she will study at Oxford University, where she will pursue graduate degrees in criminology and criminal justice. Singh, who is from Colorado Springs and is majoring in political science and journalism, has previously been named a Truman Scholar and Dalai Lama Scholar. She is president of her political science honors fraternity, chief justice of the CU Student Government’s judicial branch, and president and founder of the Sikh Student Association.
She is also president and founder of The Serenity Project, a nonprofit aimed at empowering women in at-risk communities. It aims to boost women’s self-esteem by imparting skills such as public speaking and interviewing.
These are talents Singh honed through pageantry. She was Miss Colorado Teen 2016 and America’s Junior Miss in 2017. “I joined pageantry because I had a bias against it,” she told Voice of America. Doing things she thinks she will hate, she said, is one way to challenge herself.
It’s also one way to expand one’s horizons, a principle at the core of a liberal arts education. Open inquiry is a critical value the university strives to impart, as is independent thought. Both permeate her philanthropic work and disciplinary focus.
“Going into college, there was a lot of pressure from my community and from the world around me to be either in engineering or in pre-med,” she said. “Even in high school, I really felt like in order to be successful, I needed to be in the hard sciences.”
But science was not where her passions lay: “It was in government. It was in communications like journalism, and it was in understanding our Constitution, democracy, freedom studies and learning how to reduce violence through a political lens in the United States.”
Each student choosing whether to study the humanities, STEM or anything in between, Singh said, should ask themselves this question: “Where is my sweet spot, and am I really being true to who I am?” Singh added: “If I didn’t have that conversation with myself, I might be in a very different major and a very different part of my life right now.”
Serene Singh personifies hard work, intellectual curiosity and compassion. And she embodies the wisdom of some old but good advice: Follow your heart.
James W.C. White is interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.