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Nine Harvard affiliates, including four seniors at the College, were earlier this month named Schwarzman Scholars, an academic honor awarded to individuals interested in studying China and its relationship with the world.
The College students selected for the fellowship include Caleb A. Ren ’21, Tony Shu ’21, Henry R. “Hank” Sparks ’21, and Ryan Zhang ’21. They will be joined by Ariana L. Chaivaranon ’18, Harvard Medical School student Wan Fung Chui, Carlos E. Flores ’18, Molly K. Leavens ’19, and Harvard School of Education graduate Xiaoheng “Sally” Xu as members of the program’s sixth class of scholars.
Established by Harvard Business School alumnus Stephen A. Schwarzman in 2013, the scholarship finances a one-year Master’s program in Global Affairs at Schwarzman College, a residential college located within Tsinghua University in Beijing. This year, the program selected 154 scholars from 39 countries and 99 universities, out of more than 3,600 applicants, according to a Dec. 7 press release announcing the winners.
Though students accepted for the fellowship will enroll at Schwarzman College in August 2021, it remains unclear whether they will study in Beijing. The program has operated online since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Per the program’s website, candidates are expected to demonstrate excellence in areas such as leadership, academic aptitude, intercultural competency, and entrepreneurial spirit. To qualify, applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 29 and have an undergraduate degree or be on track to complete all degree requirements before Aug. 1 of their enrollment year.
Leavens, who pursued a self-designed concentration in food and the environment while at the College, said she met the news with great surprise.
“I was on my phone after a hike and driving with a friend, and I saw a missed call from an unknown number and I immediately thought it was them,” she said. “And then I saw a voicemail, and I listened to the voicemail, and I just screamed.”
Zhang, a Social Studies concentrator pursuing a citation in Chinese, said he felt thankful for those who supported him along the way.
“At first, it was disbelief. But then the disbelief quickly turned into profound gratitude. You know, I am because of others, and I thought about all the friends, family, and teachers who helped get me where I am today,” he said.
Several students selected for the program said they are interested in learning about China’s influence in their fields of study through the fellowship. Shu, who declared a special concentration in urban studies, highlighted in an email the growing relevance of China in global relations.
“Despite, or perhaps because of, the tensions between China and the United States, learning about and engaging with China is more important now than ever,” he wrote. “No matter what’s in store for my own future, I have a strong feeling that understanding China will help me become a more effective, empathetic, and versatile leader.”
Chaivaranon, who studied Visual and Environmental Studies — now called Art, Film, and Visual Studies — and History of Art and Architecture while attending the College, said she hopes to learn how to design museums that center the voices of local populations.
“China has been building hundreds of museums in the past decade, their arts scene is really growing — they’re the third largest art market in the world,” she said. “Learning more about how that more state-sponsored or state-controlled sector of the arts in China is consolidating a national visual identity will help me understand the way that the United States does that, but also my birth country, Thailand.”
Leavens said she intends to pursue her interests in global food systems and environmental sustainability as a Schwarzman Scholar. She underscored China’s role in shaping the future of the environment and developing countries’ agricultural systems.
“From an environmental perspective, you can’t address climate change without addressing China, not just because it obviously has the most people and is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, but also because its power in the rest of the world,” she said.
Zhang said he looks forward to learning more about the “twin issues of poverty and inequality,” global challenges he believes will be “the defining issues of our time.”
“China, over the past couple of decades, has achieved significant progress on the poverty alleviation front,” he said. “I’m really excited about the courses available as part of the program where I’ll get to explore this phenomenon more deeply.”
Chaivaranon hopes her time as a Scholar will challenge and strengthen her understanding of global leadership in the 21st century.
“Great global leaders don’t set out by believing they’ll make global change,” she said. “So something I’m really interested in in this program is to get an international perspective, but also to learn how other folks are thinking about deep local accountability and bringing that to scale.”
—Staff writer Emmy M. Cho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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