Five Columbians selected for prestigious Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2024

The Schwarzman Scholars program seeks to promote international understanding, peace, and collaboration, and selects scholars for their identified leadership potential, intellect, and strength of character. Once admitted, Scholars pursue a one-year Master’s degree in Global Affairs at Tsinghua with a core curriculum focused on leadership, global affairs, and China. Beyond the classroom, Scholars gain exposure to China by spending the year traveling within the country as well as gaining access to professional networks through internships, mentorships, high-profile speakers, and engaged faculty members. The mission of the program is to allow Scholars to deepen their understanding of China’s changing role in the world, and the economic, political, and cultural factors that have contributed to its increasing influence as a global power.

Meet Columbia’s awardees

David Chen GS'23
David Chen GS’23

David Chen is majoring in political science. Originally from Beijing, he completed his secondary education in the UK and worked full-time on public diplomacy projects before coming to Columbia, where he is currently a Saltzman Student Scholar. Chen has served as a GS peer mentor and sings with the Barnard-Columbia Chamber Singers, stating, “The liberal arts approach to education at Columbia means that I have the flexibility to pursue all my passions simultaneously.”

As a Schwarzman Scholar, Chen will focus on international affairs, with the long-term goal of using public diplomacy to contribute to peace and stability in the most vulnerable regions of the world. “I genuinely believe that if channeled correctly, human to human engagement can wield the magic to achieve this goal,” he says.

David’s advice for prospective applicants?

“If an opportunity excites you, make sure you start preparing for it early and apply. In doing so, you are already ahead of the game. More importantly, the process of drafting your personal statement itself is meaningful. I gain new insights from my own experiences every time I write a new draft.”

Kewen Kong CC'23
Kewen Kong CC’23

Kewen Kong is a senior studying comparative literature and Italian studies. Born in Italy and raised in China, Kong has served at Columbia as President of the Hong Kong Students and Scholars Society and as a member of the AAPI Rights Board and Columbia Cultural Exchange. He has also published and produced several short stories and a film about wealth disparity in Hong Kong.

A firm believer in storytelling’s power to overcome political division, Kong wishes to institute an international platform that promotes conversation between global leaders who aspire to dissolve cultural borders. Through the Schwarzman program, he hopes to gain the skills “to foster healthier and more genuine communications between cultures that emphasize our fundamental similarities, rather than exaggerate our minute differences.”

Kewen’s advice for prospective applicants?

“Reach out to current scholars and learn about their stories. Their advice helped me a lot in my application.”

Rory Madigan CC'20
Rory Madigan CC'20

Rory Madigan, born in New Jersey, majored in political science. Madigan’s favorite extracurricular activity at Columbia was playing for the men’s soccer team. “There was a great sense of camaraderie on the team; I still live with some of my teammates,” Madigan says. After graduating, Madigan spent a year teaching English in Taiwan through a Fulbright scholarship. He currently works as a venture capital associate at Crane Partners.

At Schwarzman College, Madigan hopes to study Chinese private markets in conjunction with healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship. He aims to “link Chinese, Korean, and U.S. leaders in finance and healthcare to advance digital health across the two continents.”

Rory's advice for prospective applicants?

"Start early!"

Vish Rao SEAS'23
Vish Rao SEAS’23

Vish Rao, who is from Acton, Massachusetts, is majoring in biomedical engineering. A co-author of six peer-reviewed publications and twelve posters/presentations, Vish has led several impactful medical AI projects.

At Columbia, Vish served as class president for the Engineering Student Council. Through Engineering Without Borders, he led a team to extend potable water access in Ghana. He also dances on RAAS, serves as the Vice President of the Tau Beta Pi honor society, and works on the executive board for the Biomedical Engineering Society.

Going forward, Vish aims to advance the clinical adoption of medical AI through research. Vish states, “Many medical AI limitations can be addressed through increased collaboration. I am confident that [Schwarzman Scholars] will help me to deepen this collaboration internationally.”

Vish’s advice for prospective applicants?

“Frame your application with a narrative/theme. This doesn’t mean you should artificially construct a theme and fit your application to it; instead, reflect on the development of your own interests to see whether you can identify a particular area you would like to pursue. Then, tie this theme to the goal of the fellowship.”

Charlie Wallace CC'23
Charlie Wallace CC’23

Originally from Denver, Colorado, Charlie Wallace is double majoring in political science and East Asian languages and culture. Wallace is the current Columbia College Student Body President, a Columbia Admissions tour guide, and a Columbia Political Review Senior Editor. He has served as a legislative intern focusing on foreign policy for two U.S. Senators.

Prior to Columbia, Wallace studied for a year in China, including a semester at Tsinghua University. There, he says, “I heard from faculty about the amazing attributes of the [Schwarzman Scholars] program, and it has been at the forefront of my mind ever since.” Following the program, Wallace plans to attend law school, with the ultimate goal of working in public service, combining his interest in U.S. law and U.S.-China relations.

Charlie’s advice for prospective applicants?

"Don't be nervous if the interviewers don't react to your answers. I had been told that my interviewers would be fairly stoic, but it was interesting not being able to gauge how I was being perceived."

Current students and alumni can learn more about the Schwarzman Scholars and other fellowship offerings through the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships office.