UCL Alumni


Alumni stories: Shining on the world stage with Dr Anjhula Mya Singh Bais

How studying at UCL gave Dr Anjhula Mya Singh Bais the confidence to shine on the world stage.

Anjhula Mya Singh Bais

1 December 2020

Dr Anjhula Mya Singh Bais is powerfully indefinable. 

An experienced practising psychologist and activist, Anjhula is the only international psychologist specialising in trauma in Malaysia. She was named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, was formerly the youngest chair of Amnesty International Malaysia and is now a director on the International Board of Amnesty International. She’s also a former supermodel with over 100 magazine covers and campaigns to her name. And that’s not to mention her People’s Choice award from Savvy magazine and the 2020 American Psychological Association Global Citizen Psychologist Citation she’s received (one of their highest citations).

Along with her many incredible achievements, Anjhula is also turning her hand to giving back. She believes solid mentorship can unlock so much potential in the next generation. “Leadership is about paying it forward,” says Anjhula. “But in turn, I still have so much to learn from other people. That’s what's so inspirational about mentoring.” 

Psychology in the blood

Anjhula was raised between Lucknow, India and the US. At a young age, the signs were there that she was destined for a career where people were her focus. Anjhula says: “People came naturally to me. My friends would talk to me about their relationships and their parents. I was voted by my peers to be a peer mediator at school, which is where mediation and conflict naturally overlap with mental health. 

“I was unafraid of people, and that’s a requisite of being a psychologist.” 

After completing her early education, she followed her gut and took an undergraduate degree in psychology with philosophy at Lady Shri Ram College, India. It was also during this time that Anjhula had her first modelling gig, four years after she was spotted in New York as a teenager.

Discovering the UCL effect 

“London feels like a second home to me. I used to joke that in the summertime, it’s like New Dehli part two,” says Anjhula. With a BA in Psychology with Philosophy, Anjhula felt it was time to focus her study by taking a Master’s degree in the field. And at a time where her modelling career was reaching its peak, London felt like a natural choice. 

“The city you live in is a form of education itself. I wasn’t going to be able to do London Fashion Week from Oxford or Cambridge. But gaining admission to UCL was the first time in my life that I also felt I had cerebral fire power. I gained a confidence that has never left me.” 

Successfully balancing a growing modelling career and an intensive MSc in Psychoanalysis takes determination, but Anjhula felt completely supported by her UCL. “My professors were some of the most influential psychoanalysis academics in the world, but so compassionate all the same. 

“We all have pride in being part of this community where one person’s success is another person’s success. It’s a collective consciousness. If you think about actors ‘sweeping’ the Oscars, UCL does this with the Nobel Prizes. How unbelievable.” 

Along with falling in love with Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of ‘the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people,’ UCL was also pivotal in Anjhula’s personal life. On the day she handed in her dissertation thesis in 2006, she was introduced to Satish Selvanathan by mutual friends at a dinner – the two went on to marry in 2010. 

Paying it back 

Since graduating, Anjhula’s career has taken her across the world and into territories where she’s breaking ground as a woman and as a psychologist. But she feels it was her time at UCL that gave her a belief in herself and her mission.

“When I started at UCL, it gave me a sense of self, identity and confidence which I continue to carry throughout my life,” she says. “Going through the highly competitive vetting process to become a Young Global Leader, I could really see how all of my decisions and the tough calls I’ve taken have helped me. And having UCL on my CV has undoubtedly given me the strength to stand my ground negotiating with politicians and world leaders.” 

Part of Anjhula’s resilience comes down to her finding the right mentors, something she believes current and former UCL students should invest time in. Not selling yourself short and understanding what your personal strengths are is the key. She says: “We stand on the shoulders of the giants that have come before us. I think you naturally know who you resonate with or who you admire, no matter how far out of reach they seem. Start and lead with what you bring to the table.” 

Anjhula is giving back to UCL too through our Globally United video series, and sharing her wisdom and experience at our UCL Connect: In Conversation event.

To those who are struggling to find their place after graduation, Anjhula recommends looking beyond your own circle and learning from those with different views. “We’re raised in a society that is instant everything, but things take decades to develop so you’re not going to fix them overnight,” she says. “Don’t get comfortable just being in your zone. You need to be content with moving the needle even just one inch. 

“Despite what’s going on in the world right now, for UCL students and alumni, I think it’s very important to remember that the admission to UCL puts you in a league that’s different to everyone else. It’s not something that money or authoritarian power can buy – it’s all down to you. It’s your brilliance, it’s your uniqueness. And it’s the most precious thing.”

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