Four UChicago alumni join the 2021 Schwarzman Scholar cohort

Alumni to explore interdisciplinary interests through master’s program at Tsinghua University

Four University of Chicago alumni were recently honored through the Schwarzman Scholars program and will pursue a one-year master’s program in global affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Yucheng Peng, AB’16; William Seaton, AB’17; Kristina Yu, AB’16; and Jason Zhou, AB’18, are members of the sixth class of Schwarzman Scholars. These UChicago alumni will explore their interdisciplinary interests on a global scale through coursework in public policy, economics and business, and international relations.

The students will live and study at Tsinghua’s Schwarzman College and be taught by scholars at Tsinghua University and visiting faculty from leading institutions around the globe. Peng, Seaton, Yu and Zhou are four of 154 students to receive this prestigious fellowship this year.

“The University of Chicago is delighted four College alumni have been recognized by the Schwarzman Scholars program,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “Yucheng, William, Kristina and Jason are part of a distinguished community of UChicago scholars whose intellectual contributions have meaningfully impacted their fields of study and the world. These awards are recognitions of their extraordinary accomplishments.”

Yucheng Peng was born in a small town in China near a large aluminum factory. While growing up, he knew many people who suffered health issues from air pollution, which led him to study environmental and geophysical sciences at UChicago.

“At UChicago, I not only had the opportunity to learn more about the Mother Earth and the outside environment but also had a great chance to explore my inner world,” Peng said. “Every time I encounter difficulties or setbacks, my experience at UChicago can always give me the internal power needed to overcome them and help me to move forward.”

Peng is striving to become an innovator, investor, and influencer who has a passion to make a difference in the world through technology and education. He owns many national patents and more than 30 inventions. Since his graduation, Peng has explored education and financial investing, and developed an organization devoted to helping teenagers and their families to live happier, more fulfilling, and purposeful lives. As a Schwarzman Scholar, he will study innovations and sustainable development in the education industry.

“I have a dream that I want to bring warmth to more people and help people achieve their own dreams,” Peng said. “It is this dream that drives me to observe the surroundings, identify people’s needs, and think of methods to solve the problem; it is this dream that helps me to locate the best companies and best deals, and not only make good financial returns for the partners but also facilitate the companies to make the world a better place; it is also this dream that urges me to start my own organizations and help teenagers to grow with good psychological well-being.”

William Seaton sees U.S.-China policy as a key way to lead growth in both countries, and he is eager to explore the interdisciplinary, international prospective offered by the Schwarzman Scholarship program. 

While at UChicago, Seaton studied economics and creative writing.

“Economics appealed to me as a framework for understanding the world, people’s needs in that world, and how to protect and provide for those needs,” he said. “Creative writing appealed to me as a way to better process my own thoughts, tell inspirational stories, and see more beauty in language.”

Since graduating from UChicago, Seaton has served as a management associate at Bridgewater Associates, where two alumni of the Schwarzman Scholars program helped foster his interest in U.S.-China relations and encouraged him to apply.

“As a next step in my career I’m exploring economic policy positions through which I might shape collaborative deal-making in this space, where both nations stand to create more jobs, cheaper energy, and cleaner air and water,” Seaton said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics at UChicago, Kristina Yu has gained experience in the financial and tech worlds. Now, she is ready to tackle the big questions facing the international electric vehicle market with the insights she will gain through the Schwarzman Scholars program.

“Leading technology corporations are massively disrupting traditional industries such as automotive and manufacturing,” she said. “However, as we face continuous operating challenges due to the pandemic, I kept wondering about the possible impacts COVID-19 will have. What challenges will confront Chinese corporations on the global stage over the next decade? These questions prompted me to apply for the Schwarzman Scholars program.”

Yu’s tech and business interests were solidified during her time at UChicago.

“I once attended a Career Trek site visit in tech/entrepreneurship organized by UChicago Career Advancement,” she said. “We visited Twitter, Yelp, Google, Facebook, True Ventures, and some startups in Silicon Valley founded by UChicago alums. The workshops and seminars there were well organized and inspiring, and they provided me access to information and advice from leaders in the technology industry. I couldn’t be more grateful for having such an amazing opportunity back then.”

Jason Zhou has long been interested in political and military history. His fascination with statecraft began in his youth, when he read books such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms—a classic Chinese novel depicting the fall of the Han dynasty and the rise of three competing kingdoms. At the University of Chicago, Zhou wrote a thesis for his public policy major on the topic of real-world crises that have arisen from military exercises. 

“The methods I learned at UChicago for qualitatively evaluating the logic in arguments and weighing them against history and theory has been extremely valuable in my career,” he said. “The paradigms I studied at UChicago have deeply influenced how I think about foreign policy.”

Zhou’s focus of study will be the principles underpinning Chinese foreign policy.

“I fervently believe in the importance of spending time in China, gaining an understanding of Chinese perspectives, and using that to inform U.S. policy at this critical juncture,” Zhou said. “I feel really lucky that I can pursue this effort at Schwarzman, and I can’t wait to meet and learn from the incredible cohort.”

Since graduating from UChicago, Zhou has worked at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., where he analyzes open-source intelligence and tests use cases for new technology tools. Zhou hopes this work, along with his studies as a Schwarzman Scholar, can prepare him to eventually help craft foreign policy for the U.S. government.

The College Center for Research and Fellowships provides support for current undergraduates and recent alumni applying for nationally competitive fellowships, including the Schwarzman Scholars program.

—This story was also published on the UChicago College website.