Courtesy of Hannah Parton

Two Yalies — Clara Ma ’19 and Seyoung Lee ’16 — have been awarded the Schwarzman Scholarship, a prestigious award for graduate study in China, according to a Dec. 3 press release.

The scholarship, which was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, covers one year of graduate study at the Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, according to the press release. All scholars pursue a yearlong master’s degree in global affairs with a concentration in one of three fields: public policy, international studies or economics and business. This year, the committee selected 147 Schwarzman Scholars out of more than 2,800 applicants. The class is made up of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, according to the press release. Forty percent of the class originate from the United States, 20 percent come from China and another 40 percent come from other countries. Since the program’s establishment three years ago, 19 Yalies — including Ma and Lee — have received the award.

“We’re delighted for Clara and Seyoung to join the growing cohort of Yale Schwarzman Scholars,” said Director of the Office of Fellowship Programs Rebekah Westphal. “This is an incredible and prestigious … fellowship for students who have an interest in developing their leadership skills and accessing a professional network in China and more broadly in Asia.”

Ma, a geology and geophysics and political science double major, served as the president of Undergraduates in STEM and the treasurer of the Student Environmental Coalition at Yale.

When Ma was 12 years old, she won an essay competition to name NASA’s now famous Mars Science Laboratory Rover — “Curiosity.” She then spent almost a decade working with NASA to promote youth engagement in science. She has also conducted research at Columbia University and the United States Department of Energy, where she contributed to the development of a “state-of-the-art” earth energy modeler, according to the Department of Energy website.

“I am just so thrilled and grateful to have been selected from such an amazing group of people,” Ma said. “China permeates nearly every aspect of my scientific and policy interests. Studying at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua will present me with a really special opportunity to deepen my knowledge of U.S.-China relations, a key partnership for energy, climate and space exploration, the three issues I care most about.

Lee graduated with a degree in ethics, politics and economics at Yale and founded Open Doors — a group that helps undocumented students gain access to higher education. Lee has since worked in Hong Kong at a SuperCharger FinTech Accelerator, scouting promising startups in Asia, and at a private and public equity fund in Asia.

Lee told the News that she has been “blown away” by the “speed and depth of Chinese startup innovation.”

“I am excited to join the Schwarzman Scholars program next year and immerse myself in Beijing and the larger Tsinghua University ecosystem — arguably the heart of startup innovation in China,” Lee said. “I aim to research Chinese fintech business models and their applicability to other developing countries.”

This year’s cohort of Schwarzman Scholars also includes a captain of the British Army Taekwondo team, the first Muslim elected official in Jersey City history, an activist who successfully petitioned the White House to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States and a first-generation college student who went on to be a NASCAR driver.

Blackstone CEO and Chairman of Schwarzman Scholars Stephen Schwarzman ’69, who founded the program, donated more than $100 million to the scholarship and is leading a fundraising campaign to permanently endow the program.

In the press release, Schwarzman said that the “newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from across the world.”

“My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined,” he said. “I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark.”

Tsinghua University is located in the Wudaokou neighborhood in Beijing.

Skakel McCooey |