For the sixth class of Schwarzman Scholars, alumni Melissa Kariuki and Arinze Obiezue were selected to join a cohort of 154 individuals chosen from more than 3600 applicants to study China and its expanding geopolitical influence in the world. They are both the first Schwarzman Scholars from ALU.
The Schwarzman Scholars Program, created by Blackstone investment firm’s co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman, is a fully-funded one-year Master’s program in Global Affairs at Schwarzman College, a fully residential college within Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. With an acceptance rate below four percent, Schwarzman Scholars is considered one of the most competitive scholarships in the world.
Every year, about 150 scholars are selected from all over the world based on their leadership ability, academic excellence, intercultural competency, and demonstrated potential to become the next generation of global leaders who will serve to deepen understanding between China and the rest of the world.
Selected scholars get to explore their interdisciplinary interests through a wide range of coursework that covers economics, public policy, business, leadership, and international relations. To qualify, applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 28 and have an undergraduate degree or be on track to complete all their academic requirements by August 1 of their intended matriculation year.
“This admissions cycle was the first time they called admitted scholars on the phone,” Obiezue, who currently works as a Content Designer at Facebook, said. “I was extremely anxious the whole day as I constantly checked my phone. It wasn’t until 7pm London time that my phone rang and as soon as I heard ‘This is Wyatt from Schwarzman Scholars,’ I broke into tears.”
Kariuki, who’s an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google, said she applied to the program because of her realisation that the conventional MBA path wasn’t right for her. “I wanted a master’s program that would add significant value given that my undergrad major was Business. Schwarzman Scholars was a perfect fit due to its China-Africa focus, which is very important given China’s increasing influence in Africa.”
“My decision to apply to the program was, in part, inspired by the ALU staffulty who are Schwarzman Scholars: Danai Mavunga and Alioune Fall,” Obiezue explained. “Considering my interest in technology and venture capital, the Schwarzman Scholars program is an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to study in China, a country that currently leads the world in the deployment of advanced technologies at scale and in tech investments.”
Explaining how the program aligns with her long-term goals, Kariuki said: “As an entrepreneur at heart, I have aspirations to be in business on the continent, so understanding China, Africa, and global affairs is key on that front.” Highlighting her passion for gender equality, Kariuki also highlighted her interest in studying public policy, which is important for improving social systems that exist in detriment to women.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s still uncertain whether selected scholars will begin the program in Beijing. The program has been conducted online since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. In spite of that, both Kariuki and Obiezue expressed their excitement for the program that starts in August 2021.
“For me, it’s really about the people. I’m so excited to meet the rest of my classmates. I’ve already started meeting a few of them who are based in London and they’re all so impressive!” Obiezue said. “I’m equally thrilled to meet the staff and faculty who put together this amazing program. Basically, I’m looking forward to a year of building friendships with some of the most amazing people.”
“I’m really looking forward to meeting and connecting with the rest of the scholars and also connecting with Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of the program,” Kariuki said. “I’m excited to study something that’s different from what I studied in undergrad and from what I do on a day-to-day basis in my current job.”
This week, global applications opened for the next class of Schwarzman Scholars. ALU students interested in China and global leadership are highly encouraged to apply and can contact Kariuki or Obiezue regarding any questions about the program.
“As people who aspire to transform Africa, ALU students and alumni should really give this program a shot. It’s inevitable that China is going to play a key role in shaping Africa’s future, so we need to prepare for that.” Obiezue said. “In Stephen Schwarzman’s words: ‘In the 21st century, China is no longer an elective course. It’s core curriculum.’”