Undergraduate student bound for scholarship in Beijing

Sean Yoder
December 17, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State undergraduate Ryan Morris is headed back to China — this time through the competitive Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

He will join 146 other people from around the world for a full academic year at Schwarzman College, located on the Tsinghua campus. The 2020 class, which will start their studies in August, was picked from a field of 2,800 applicants. Of those, 400 went on to complete in-person interviews in major cities, from London to New York, and Bangkok to Beijing. The program covers for each student the cost of living, as well as school expenses.

Morris, of Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, said it was partially the experience of his spring break trip last year to China that motivated him to apply. 

“It was my first time out of the United States and I had such a great experience that I wanted to find more ways to learn, develop my interests and travel,” he said.

It was that trip, as well as the encouragement of friends and his adviser, Sandy Feinstein, honors coordinator and professor of English at Penn State Berks, that motivated him to apply.

“I was impressed by Ryan’s focus and determination from the moment he heard about the scholarship from Caitlin Ting, director of the fellowships office, on her visit to campus, to when he went to China with an embedded honors course and could only glimpse the financial district from a distance,” Feinstein said. “When it came to the application itself, he was assiduous and undaunted: He wrote numerous drafts of his essays and withstood hours of grueling practice interviews.”

Morris said he went through 11 application drafts, which included two essays, a short answer section, and a one-minute video. Since the program places a high value on leadership ability, Morris referenced his time as Student Government president at Penn State Berks, as well as being one of the founders of Traduki Technologies, which aims to develop a mobile app to provide real-time language translation.

After a successful application propelled him to the semi-finalist round, he went to interview in New York, where he also met Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of the program.

Schwarzman is the co-founder of Blackstone, a private equity, asset management and financial services firm that manages $457 billion. Still the chairman and CEO, Schwarzman put forth $100 million of his own money into the scholars project and helped to generate interest and promotion from superstar geopolitical minds like Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice. Already, fundraisers for the Schwarzman Scholars have mustered $516 million of the project’s $600 million goal, according to a recent press release. Accepted students have all of their living and school expenses covered through the program. Each are enrolled in a master’s degree in global affairs and concentrate in public policy, economics and business, or international studies.

Morris, who expects to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and management and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, will pursue the economics and business concentration when he starts at Tsinghua in August.

“Besides enjoying the food, I am really looking forward to immersing myself in the surrounding community and participating in service activities,” Morris said. “I also look forward to engaging with my program peers and mentors from around the world. Two courses I am particularly excited to take are global health policy and entrepreneurship where I will dive into issues involving health access around the world while channeling my entrepreneurial desires in China.”

Tsinghua University is part of what’s known as C9, an alliance of nine institutions in mainland China that formed in 2009 and is referred to by some as “China’s Ivy League.” The institution has a long history of collaboration with U.S. schools. In the ’90s, Tsinghua partnered with MIT to create the Tsinghua-MIT Global MBA. A year later the school offered a master of laws program in American law with the help of the Temple University Beasley School of Law.

On its campus in Beijing is the relatively new Schwarzman College, built in 2016 to house and educate the Schwarzman scholars that come from around the world.

The scholars program enrolled 111 students in its inaugural class in 2016 out of a pool of 3,000 applicants. The third class was narrowed down from a 4,000 to 142, with students from 39 countries and 97 universities. A total of 41 percent came from the U.S., 20 percent from China, and 39 percent from the rest of the world.

The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.

Last Updated December 17, 2018