UChicago students, alumnus named Yenching Academy Scholars

Four fourth-year students at the University of Chicago and one recent graduate have been named Yenching Academy Scholars, recipients of a competitive award for graduate study at Yenching Academy, an elite division of Peking University in Beijing, China.

Now in its second year, the Yenching Academy Scholars program is designed to prepare a diverse cohort of international and Chinese students for careers in global leadership. Scholars will spend the 2016-2017 academic year earning a master’s degree in China Studies, an interdisciplinary curriculum that fosters deeper knowledge of Chinese history, culture and language, as well as China’s contemporary development and role in global affairs.

“We are delighted to be sending a second cohort of soon-to-be College graduates to Peking University,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College. “The Yenching Academy Scholars program is a prestigious opportunity to pursue a fully-funded graduate degree in one of China’s oldest universities. This experience will undoubtedly bolster our students as leaders and public intellectuals in whatever career field they should choose.”

Below are the University of Chicago’s 2016 Yenching Academy Scholars.

Jullian Bao


As a future diplomat grounded in statistics and social science, Jullian Bao aims to foster closer ties between nations, particularly the United States and China. “The relationship between these two global powers is often described as the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century,” Bao said. “As a Yenching Scholar, I hope to strengthen my background in global politics and continue to develop my research and leadership skills.”

Bao has played a leadership role with Model United Nations at UChicago and last summer earned a Fulbright Summer Institute Fellowship to study at King’s College London. At the Yenching Academy, she plans to pursue coursework in trade, policy analysis and legal studies and continue her advanced studies in Chinese language.

Elek Lane


A world traveler, Elek Lane has trekked coast-to-coast across the Trans-Canada Highway, worked 16-hour days in an Alaskan salmon factory and otherwise traversed the globe from Europe to Southeast Asia. His next destination is Beijing, where, as a Yenching Academy Scholar, he will focus on philosophy and religion. “I am interested in the intersection of philosophy and religion with pop culture, art and government,” Lane said, “in other words, those places where philosophy occurs naturally—away from the armchair.”

While at UChicago, Lane served as vice president of the University of Chicago Philosophy Club and presented several papers on philosophical topics, including his senior thesis, “Pictures of Rule-Following,” which was published in the fall 2015 issue of the journal Aporia.

Deniz Özensoy


Deniz Özensoy is interested in West-East relations since the 19th century and different cultures’ transition to modernity. He plans to focus his studies at the Yenching Academy on politics and international relations, with an eye toward exploring economic projects that promote international cooperation and integration. “I hope to build a career that reflects my desire to promote global friendship and cooperation,” Özensoy said.

Özensoy is no stranger to China. During past summers he has studied intensive Mandarin through the University’s Chicago in Beijing program. Last summer, he participated in UChicago’s Summer Institute on International Relations Theory and Method at Peking University, where he examined scholarly work in the fields of public policy and international relations. Özensoy enjoys traveling and learning languages. In addition to Chinese, he speaks Turkish, English and French.

Tze Ern Teo


Originally from Singapore, Tze Ern Teo aims to combine his professional and academic interests at the Yenching Academy by studying politics, international relations and philosophy. Teo already has interned in various diplomatic roles on behalf of his home country, including at the Permanent Mission of Singapore to the United Nations, in New York, and in the Singaporean Embassy to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He serves as co-president of GlobeMed at the University of Chicago, a student organization that supports a community health organization serving tuberculosis patients in Lima, Peru.

After completing his degree, Teo will work in Singapore’s Foreign Service. “I hope to use what I learn at the Yenching Academy to promote greater understanding of China within policymaking circles and build a stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific,” Teo said.

Benjamin Trnka, AB’15


With a background in behavioral neuroscience and anthropology, Benjamin Trnka plans to use his time at the Yenching Academy to explore ways in which systems like traditional Chinese medicine can help address growing global issues like substance abuse and psychiatric illness. Trnka is currently on a Fulbright-Nehru research grant in India, where he is researching a cohort of former drug users to identify health interventions for juvenile substance use.

While at UChicago, he helped lead the NEURO Club and did extensive research with the Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory. “My past research, combined with my studies at Yenching Academy, will position me well for future medical training,” said Trnka, who plans eventually to pursue an MD/PhD program, “and offers a chance to contribute to the growing international discourse on drug use.”

This year’s Yenching Academy Scholars were assisted by the College Center for Scholarly Advancement, a new office in the College that informs undergraduates about national scholarship, fellowship and postgraduate opportunities and helps them through the highly competitive application processes.