Film highlights scholars

by Alexa Green | 7/27/17 11:50pm

On June 25, CNBC aired a documentary featuring two recent Dartmouth graduates. “A Billionaire’s Bet: The Best & Brightest” followed 110 students from around the world as they participated in the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University.

Jordyn Turner ’16 was one of the documentary’s featured students. She and Jake Gaba ’16 were included in the first class of Schwarzman Scholars, pursuing a Masters in Global Affairs through the program.

The Schwarzman Scholars program was created by Steve Schwarzman, an American investor, private equity manager and philanthropist. Forbes has ranked Schwarzman at 113th on its World’s Billionaires List, lending to the documentary’s alliterative title.

According to Kathy Liu, one of the show’s producers, Schwarzman came up with the idea to create an educational and influential global program following Tsinghua University’s request to aid a future study abroad program for its hundred-year anniversary. The university approached Schwarzman due to his past involvement and position on the board for the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.

“However, he decided he didn’t want to do something simple, but rather go big,” Liu said. “He wanted to create this scholarship program, almost like a school, taking cues from the Rhodes Scholarship program.”

Schwarzman’s idea turned into the Schwarzman Scholars and spurred the development of Schwarzman College on Tsinghua University’s campus. Schwarzman College provides students with the opportunity to obtain a Master’s of Global Affairs, aiming to harness talented academic and professional leadership in China’s expanding role in the world.

Liu also cited the disparity between the large number of Chinese students studying abroad in the United States and American students studying in China as a reason for the program’s development. Schwarzman aimed to minimize this gap, as well as educate and connect future leaders with a knowledgeable background in Chinese affairs.

The reason for the original documentary was interest in the first year of a program “that was being called the ‘Rhodes of the 21st century,’” Liu said. The scholarship program was meant to unite the best and brightest individuals from around the world to learn together. Their courses, which are taught in English, concentrate on public policy, international studies, economics and business.

“The reason we featured [Turner] was because I was very impressed with how engaged she was in the program,” Liu said. “She knew exactly what she wanted and where she was headed.”

There is a hopeful expectation that the relationships built through the Schwarzman Scholars program will have long-lasting geopolitical implications.

“The main values of the program emphasized hearing different perspectives, which was really interesting,” Gaba said. He also added that the experience mirrored a survey of global affairs.

Looking for unique applicants, Schwarzman Scholars director of global admissions Rob Garris said that the program’s admissions process considers individuals who have demonstrated the willingness and capacity to take initiative and drive success within their own cultures. “It’s an admissions process that recognizes that leadership skills are going to be very different from Japan to Singapore to India to the U.K. to the U.S,” Garris said. The Schwarzman Scholars program brings together students who are interested in a vast array of fields, including business and economics, international policy, diplomacy, public policy, arts and sciences.

Garris added that he was originally drawn to the scholarship program because it “helped universities focus their resources on solving real world problems, and created mechanisms for very talented young people to get a good education at no cost.”

During its first year, the program had 110 scholars from 31 different countries. Forty-five percent of the scholars were from the United States, 20 percent were from China and the final 35 percent was comprised of students from the rest of the world.

“We feel like there is a lot of work to be done, particularly in important geographies that are geopolitically important in terms of China’s relationship with the rest of the world,” Garris said. “These include places like Japan, Korea, Russia and India, which are key from the perspective of how China connects out to the rest of the world and have been underrepresented in the first few classes [of Schwarzman Scholars].”

Furthermore, these skills are emphasized both inside and outside of the classroom. Through the school’s curriculum, students attend class four days a week, split into quarters, or modules, similar to Dartmouth. Gaba described the modules as two hour daily periods for four days a week; the students did not have class on Friday and were encouraged to explore Beijing or travel outside of the city.

“It was a combination of classroom [learning] and guest lectures, with us having the freedom to travel and do cool things on the weekends,” Gaba said.

Gaba’s concentration in the Master’s program centered around Chinese public policy, studying different issues in international relations, global economics, business and public policy. At Dartmouth, Gaba swtudied computer science and digital arts. He was also the musical director for Dartmouth’s Sing Dynasty a cappella group. Outside of Dartmouth, he applied his Dartmouth studies and coded for Microsoft. Gaba is experienced in front of the camera, as he competed on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.” Additionally, he co-founded Symbiotic Studios, a video production company with over one million views on YouTube. He has filmed virtual-reality videos for NASA, Kickstarter videos for local entrepreneurs and a viral video of himself dancing across China that appeared on Good Morning America, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.

Additionally, the Schwarzman Scholars traveled throughout China on trips led by faculty, fellow students and local guides. Through these immersive programs, the scholars met government, business and social leaders. The organized excursions were called “Deep Dives,” and entailed meetings with local government officials and business leaders in addition to exploratory travel.

“Life at Schwarzman College was an adventure,” Gaba said. “We once we went to Hong Kong on a scholar-led Deep Dive, where we met with the incoming Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong which is similar to their president and several prominent business CEOs. We had different travel experiences like that, meeting people with very interesting perspectives.”

Addressing the program’s purpose, Garris said that it is dually focused on the individual scholar and his or her capacity to serve as an intermediary between China and the rest of the world.

“They’re not just a collection of successful and talented individuals, but also a network with the shared responsibility to be sure that on all fronts cultural, political, business and nonprofit,” Garris said. “China has open and strong relationships with all parts of the world.”

He highlighted that in today’s global environment, younger individuals see the value of deeper relationships and cultural understanding.

“The most rewarding part of the program was definitely getting to meet all of the other scholars,” Gaba said. “After doing this, the world seems a lot smaller. I am more connected to people all over the world [and] feel much more like a global citizen after this program.”