Elite scholarship gets new partner to help find students

Updated: 2014-05-15 03:05

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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 Elite scholarship gets new partner to help find students

The construction site of Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing is shown in a photo taken earlier this year. Schwarzman College is to be completed by the spring of 2016. Provided to China Daily

Schwarzman Scholars - an international scholarship program that promotes cross-cultural exchange between China, the US and a number of other countries - has announced a new partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE), a move that the program's founder sees as a stepping stone to bigger and better endeavors.

Stephen A. Schwarzman, founder of Schwarzman Scholars (SS) in conjunction with Tsinghua University in Beijing, said his foundation "will benefit substantially" from a partnership with IIE.

"The IIE will serve as a resource of unparalleled expertise on student outreach and selection matters," Schwarzman said in a statement. "We look forward to working with them in the years ahead to attract exceptional future leaders with the desire to join a global network that will strengthen relations between China and the rest of the world in the coming decades."

SS is an initiative that was launched in 2013 with the backing of Schwarzman, who is the CEO and co-founder of Blackstone Group LP - an American multinational private equity, investment banking, alternative asset management and financial services firm. SS is the largest charitable effort in China's history.

IIE, a not-for-profit education organization founded in 1919, operates a series of study and training programs for students, educators and professionals, in addition to conducting policy research on international education. With close to 20 offices worldwide, IIE receives support from more than 1,200 member institutions.

News of the partnership between the two firms was announced in a press release on Monday.

Allan Goodman, president and CEO of IIE, said he is excited by the prospects of this new scholarship program.

"After the announcement of the Schwarzman College program, my reaction was this is visionary," Goodman said on Tuesday in an interview with China Daily. "It's a different way to think about education and a different way to think about China.

"But we want people that can do more than go to a tough undergraduate school and get top grades, we're looking for the concepts of leadership and vision," he said.

Mark Lazar, vice-president of the Global Scholarship and Learning Program at the IIE, said IIE's focus leading up the launch of the program would be "gearing up" for the selection process.

"For us the next 8-12 months the focus is the community outreach process," Lazar said Tuesday in an interview with China Daily. "The students will have to be top-level academics, but they'll also have to have something extra to make an impact on the world."

The inaugural admissions process will begin in the fall of 2015, with the first class entering Schwarzman College in June 2016, according to a May 12 press release from SS.

Students from all around the globe will be eligible to apply for the scholarship, and 200 applicants each year will be selected and given the opportunity to study for a one-year Master's degree in Beijing. However, the program has said 45 percent of the initial class will come from the US, 20 percent from China and the remaining 35 percent from other countries.

Christine Anderson, a representative of Blackstone, said the vision of the program is aimed in part at working against misconceptions that have come up between the world's two largest economies.

"Steve is concerned that as China emerges as the world's leading economy in the coming decades, that the potential for tensions increases,” Anderson said Tuesday in an interview with China Daily.

"Steve believes the stakes are high and the potential for conflict is great because people largely don't understand China," she said.

"Schwarzman Scholars hopes to help address this problem by creating a strong network of future leaders who understand China, and its people, culture and motivations."

The SS program is modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship, an international postgraduate award that allows foreign students to study at the University of Oxford. Established in 1902, the Rhodes Scholarship was the first large-scale international scholarship program, and it is still widely recognized as one of the highest collegiate academic honors.

In 2013, Schwarzman contributed a personal sum of $100 million to the SS program, and with the help of Tsinghua University - the host site for Schwarzman College and the SS program - and non-affiliated private donors, the group accumulated more than $250 million.

The group has since raised its funding goal to $350 million.

Last week, SS passed its one-year anniversary, and hosted a tour on site at Tsinghua University. Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is also an honorary advisory board member for SS, was on hand to tour the future site of Schwarzman College — a state-of-the-art residential college designed specifically for the SS program.

Jane Edwards — dean of International and Professional Experience at Yale University, who also serves on the SS program academic advisory council — said vetting candidates for this program is not restricted to those students with a pre-existing relationship with China.

"While [the students] will be graduating with excellent academic credentials, we're also looking for the less immediately tangible qualities that will make them suitable," Edwards said Tuesday in an interview with China Daily. "One of the things we talked about was the notion of seeking young people who will be wonderful contributors to the ongoing relationship between China and the US."

Stephen A Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, said the SS program is trying to start "what is effectively the Rhodes program from a standstill".

"You have to of course look for all sorts of partners to help you get going," Orlins said Tuesday in a phone interview with China Daily. "Early on, IIE had been suggested as a potential partner so I think everyone on the Advisory Board views this as terrific news."

Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) said "students should be given the opportunity whenever possible to spend time in another country."

"To be able to learn a foreign language, be exposed to different views of the world and witness how Chinese scholars and institutions develop frameworks for understanding … is a tremendous opportunity," Yu said Tuesday in an email to China Daily. "Our conviction is that the next generation of worldwide leaders will need to know something about China, and, preferably, a lot."