Jingren Wang, an alumna from the Minerva Class of 2021, was recently awarded the prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship, a highly competitive and coveted award for students interested in international relations and global governance to further their studies fully funded in China. Scholars are selected based on their leadership potential, academic achievements, and commitment to advancing cross-cultural understanding and global progress.
As a Schwarzman Scholar, Jingren will pursue a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Through this rigorous and immersive program, she will be learning international relations, global development, and effective leadership in the context of 21st-century challenges. She will also live in a multicultural community through a global residential college, and be able to travel across the country on field trips for deep-dive case studies, which will help her gain a better understanding of China and the world.
Why did you apply for the Schwarzman Scholarship?
“The illiterate of the 21st Century”, as warned by futurologist Alvin Toffler, “will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” I deeply resonate with this statement: Today, lifelong learning is no longer a rosy ideal, but an existential prerequisite for individuals, organizations, and societies at large. My ultimate vision is to build a human-centric, AI-driven ecosystem of lifelong learning for sustainable global governance in an increasingly complex world.
However, building an ecosystem is a grand endeavor, which I believe demands not just technical expertise, but also a comprehensive grasp of global affairs and international policy-making, and a practical understanding of human motivations and its management. In my upcoming degree, I seek to deepen my understanding of the multifold, sometimes controversial, implications of adopting intelligent machines to augment the human mind, in a broader context of today’s international relations. I believe this is primarily what motivated me to apply for the Schwarzman Scholarship.
What qualities, initiatives, and decisions do you think led to the Schwarzman Scholarship?
As one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships comparable to the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, the Schwarzman Scholarship is dedicated to ‘creating global leadership for the 21st century’, which is now primarily shaped by the intricate power dynamics between China and the US. Specifically, the program expects qualified candidates to have, as far as I understand it, ‘a Global eye and a China nose’: Being capable of both taking in diverse perspectives to facilitate active international dialogues, and identifying constructive opportunities to narrate China to the world for a deepened international cooperation.
I think my decade-long quest across different countries to find better education that truly centers on students’ learning capacity has added edges to my global understanding; living closely with classmates from 80+ countries at Minerva has expanded my worldview, and acclimated me to seek common interests from diverse pursuits. I also learned to motivate a dynamic group for a shared vision through various leadership initiatives across technology, entrepreneurship, and social innovation. As a native Chinese, these in-depth, global immersion experiences have helped grow my way of understanding and communicating about China from a perspective that is open-minded, context-specific, and culturally inclusive.
How has your Minerva journey helped you stand out as a candidate for the scholarship?
As far as I’m concerned, the Schwarzman Scholars honor active global citizenship, which I believe is deeply recognized by and intentionally practiced in Minerva’s curriculum. Through curated immersive city explorations and by living in a truly global community, I began to appreciate the beauty of cultural dexterity, the spark of constructive dissension, and self-identify with the new values emerging from this scintillating cohort of global citizens.
The scholarship also seeks potential for practical innovation in a complex world, which requires a nimble mind to think outside of the box and not get defined by the problem at hand. I think Minerva’s dedication to horn students’ core competencies across contexts so as to build 'transferable skills' has empowered me to solve problems through an interdisciplinary and model-free approach. The HCs (Habits of Mind and Fundamental Concepts) we intentionally practice are so cognitively portable, that they serve well as the ‘lego blocks’ of structured reasoning in designing creative solutions.
Moreover, the program aims to nurture effective leadership, and I believe an effective leader shall be visionary and brave enough to explore all the possibilities before settling for a satisfactory answer. At Minerva, I had the luxury of not having to ‘choose a path’: I discovered the world through scientific research, but also through running a non-profit, organizing tech competitions, advocating for gender equity, and writing poems. I believe such broad-minded explorations have strengthened my intellectual resilience to sail these uncharted waters.
How do you think that the one-year master's degree in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University will help you grow as a professional and future leader?
My undergraduate study at the cross field of cognitive science and artificial intelligence at Minerva has provided me with a solid foundation to envision and build a smart lifelong learning system at the algorithmic level. However, as I went deeper into my research, I became increasingly intrigued by the baffling interplay between technological innovation and human agency. I believe that, before we can roll out any concrete or adaptive solutions, a shared value system shall be first cultivated, and a global culture of lifelong learning shall be embraced by all. I think the Schwarzman Scholars will be a great platform to try and forge such critical dialogues across cultures and ideologies.
Through this intensive Master’s program, I will have opportunities to exchange ideas face-to-face with political leaders, policymakers, economists, top scientists, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs around the globe, which I believe will profoundly extend my horizon. I also look forward to the experiential learning and cultural immersion program to deepen my understanding of China, my home country, by directly feeling her powers and pains. Hopefully, at the end of the program, I will be much more inspired and resilient, mind-broadened but feet-grounded in my pursuit.
What does this scholarship mean to you personally?
My path to Minerva was atypical, if not rebellious. Before admission, I already completed my sophomore study of finance at Australia’s top business school. Joining Minerva would mean a grand halt to my current degree from a world-recognized university, and zeroed up all my efforts in building a respectable career in financial auditing.
Though I have always known that Minerva is the right education I need and want, I kept failing at convincing those around me to put down their worries, doubts, and prejudgements, or joining me in appreciating a reimagined model of education — After all, people request tangible outcomes and solid proof of efficacy before accepting a new truth.
So to me, receiving this widely-recognized award from Schwarzman Scholars speaks as an affirmation of my inner quest on the side of the ‘unconventional’. More importantly, it proves to the scholarly spectators that educational elitism has been a tempting but unhelpful illusion. I learned that it is totally fine to climb ‘away from’ the ladder of school ranks and that if you genuinely pursue a broader mind of wisdom, pathways do exist for you to switch back and forth between the so-called ‘recognized’ and ‘alternative’ education. The freedom to intellectual growth rests in your hand.
I also hope my experience may serve as a source of inspiration to young souls who are currently drowned by the mainstream hype for utilitarian accomplishments or compelled by an urge to replicate other’s success formula — for the true path to self-realization lies within ourselves, which will manifest when we fully embrace our ownership to lifelong learning.
If you were inspired by Jingren’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, start your Minerva application today.