Eight current and former Yalies were awarded Schwarzman scholarships for graduate study at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s most prestigious schools.
The winners include four current students — Madeline Bauer ’17, Max Goldberg ’17, Yuci Ren ’17 and Tonatiuh Liévano Beltrán GRD ’17 — and four alumni — Zahra Batie ’15, Paul Lorem Aminathia ’15, Filippos Lekkas ’14 and Paul Wasserman ’14. The scholars will each pursue a single-year master’s degree in China, focusing either on public policy, international studies, economics or business. This group of award winners is double the size of last year’s inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars.
The Yale contingent joins 129 Schwarzman Scholars around the world this year. The names of the award winners were made public on Thursday morning. According to the program’s press release, the newest class of scholars is composed of students from 30 countries and 75 universities worldwide, with slightly less than half coming from the U.S. and about a fifth coming from China.
Business mogul Stephen A. Schwarzman ’69 established the award last year in order to support the study of future world leaders, whom Schwarzman believes must understand China’s role in the world. Schwarzman is also the benefactor behind the Schwarzman Center at Yale, and has been active in high-profile philanthropy for a number of years, making significant donations to public institutions like the New York Public Library.
After a team of readers from around the world reviewed the applications, 300 semifinalists were invited for in-person interviews either in New York, London, Beijing or Bangkok before international panels that included CEOs, former heads of state, university presidents, nonprofit executives, journalists and other leaders.
Zahra Batie, who joins this year’s class of Schwarzman Scholars, initially won the award last year. Batie, who has Arab heritage, was born in the United Kingdom, brought up in Ghana and educated in South Africa, the United States and China. She was a Global Affairs major at Yale, focusing on East Asian and African Studies.
Batie is interested in catalyzing economic growth in developing countries, especially in Africa. She is fluent in Mandarin and hopes to combine her Asian and African knowledge areas to help positively shape Sino-African affairs. She works for Dalberg Global Development Advisors, and said she hopes the Schwarzman scholarship can help further her career ambitions.
Max Goldberg, another awardee, will graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Yale this year with a degree in Ethics, Politics and Economics.
Goldberg said the Schwarzman scholarship application process was an important opportunity to think about his potential professional direction and the impact he wanted to have in his work. He said that he has been enthralled with China since his freshman year of high school and sees Schwarzman Scholars as an opportunity to synthesize and expand the work he has already done on legal reform by exposing himself to a broad spectrum of academics, policy makers and like-minded students.
“Throughout the process of considering postgraduate options, I felt torn between the ‘comfortable’ route of continuing my education versus the ‘uncomfortable’ route of going directly into public service work that would allow me to have an impact now,” Goldberg said.
While at Yale, Goldberg founded the Financial Literacy and Justice Task Force, a nonprofit organization that teaches financial decision-making and raises awareness of predatory lending in New Haven public schools. As a Liman Fellow of the Yale Law School, Goldberg has worked in both San Francisco and Hong Kong to promote legal reform dialogue between the United States and China.
“I applied to be a Schwarzman Scholar because I dream of a world in which, even if the U.S. and China don’t agree on the issues, they can at least agree on the rules of the game,” Goldberg said. “For that to happen, new rules must be written, ones that reflect the interests, values and culture of both countries. I want to help write those new rules, and I think Schwarzman will prepare me to do it.”
As a Schwarzman Scholar, Goldberg said he will seek to build relationships that will further his work to foster China-United States cooperation on matters of law.
Schwarzman Scholar Tonatiuh Liévano Beltrán spent his undergraduate years at Harvard College studying biomedical engineering and economics. He developed medical devices, water sanitation and anti-poverty policy. Following his graduation from Harvard, Liévano Beltrán spent a year working in Brazil and Mozambique, delving into public health, education and advocacy. Liévano Beltrán is currently a graduate student studying international and developmental economics at Yale.
“Mostly, I was grateful, and it took me a moment to process, but the first thing I thought to myself was: ‘Wow, this is really happening,’” Liévano Beltrán said of his award.
A speaker of English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, Liévano Beltrán said that in China, he hopes to gain a better understanding of the challenges brought on by changes in population and demographics.
Paul Lorem Aminathia, who is from South Sudan, graduated from Yale in 2015 with a degree in economics. After graduating, he launched an agribusiness startup in Kenya, which works to integrate small-scale farmers into the regional agricultural value chains through contract farming. In June 2016, he moved to South Sudan and took up a job teaching financial literacy on a radio show with a local radio station. Aminathia currently plans to return to South Sudan to contribute to development there.
“I would like to use this opportunity to intimately and experientially understand how the intersection of business and politics has helped shape what many in the field of development have come to dub China’s ‘economic miracle,’ particularly with respect to the social transformation occurring in China’s rural communities,” Aminathia said.
Filippos Lekkas graduated from Yale with degrees in politics and economics. While a student, he competed with the Yale Debate Association and headed the Yale European Undergraduates. Lekkas, who hails from Germany and Greece, worked in Europe and later founded a think tank.
Through the Schwarzman scholarship, Lekkas hopes to better lead European public and private institutions in developing strategies to manage China’s daunting internal complexity.
“I have no idea where the experience will take me but I’m certain that the friendships and knowledge I’ll develop will play a major role in my life afterwards, and that the year itself will be a great adventure,” Lekkas said.
Yuci Ren, a double major in economics and history at Yale, is also the co-president of the Yale China Economic Forum, a student-run organization aimed at promoting greater understanding of Chinese politics, economy and culture. As a Schwarzman Scholar, she hopes to foster future collaborations between China and other nations around the world.
After graduating from Yale in 2014, Paul Wasserman lived in Russia for a year on a Fulbright Fellowship. He is currently working in the field of international studies, focusing on the interplay between Russia, China and the United States at the geopolitical level.
Wasserman said that this opportunity means a lot to his grandparents, who encouraged him to travel and see the world.
“My grandfather actually grew up in Shanghai and fought in the Pacific theater during World War II where, because of his fluency in Mandarin, he served as General Stilwell’s interpreter,” Wasserman said. “When I told my grandparents about the Schwarzman award, I have rarely seen them as excited or as animated.”
At Tsinghua University, Wasserman hopes to explore China’s massive economic initiative known as “One Belt, One Road,” as well as China’s economic and geopolitical impact in Central Asia and on broader Sino-Russian relations.
Madeline Bauer studies history and East Asian Studies at Yale. A freshman counselor in Calhou College, she plays violin in the Yale Symphony Orchestra and works as an editor of the student publication China Hands. She is also the former vice president of the Yale College Council.
Bauer said spending a year in China has been a goal of hers since she went abroad with Yale’s Light Fellowship in the summer after her freshman year. It was in her job at the Department of State last summer that she realized her next step had to be in international affairs and foreign policy.
Bauer also mentioned that she is an advocate for female leadership, especially in government and foreign policy, where she said that women are significantly underrepresented around the world.
In the long term, Bauer said she hopes to run for office or enter the federal government in a role where she can influence policy.
The Schwarzman Scholars were selected through a process the press release said was “designed to evaluate leadership experience and potential, intellectual and academic ability, including the capacity to understand emerging trends, design solutions and inspire others to a vision, as well as strength of character.”