Tsinghua University to host inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars in 2016

Macon native Torre Lavelle, a senior at the University of Georgia, has been chosen as one of 111 students from around the world for the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars to attend a fully funded one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Torre Lavelle, UGA senior
Torre Lavelle, UGA senior

Ms. Lavelle was selected from among more than 3,000 applicants making the program one of the most selective in the world with an acceptance rate of 3.7 percent.

Three hundred semi-finalists were invited for in-person interviews in Beijing; Bangkok, Thailand; London or New York before international panels composed of CEOs, former heads of state, university presidents, non-profit executives, journalists and others.

Among those selected are the current commander of a Special Operations Forces team on a classified mission in Iraq; the producer and star of “Guy Dances Across China in 100 Days,” which received 750,000 YouTube views; a chemical engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;

a serial entrepreneur from California; the only person ever to be ranked 1st in the admonitions competitions for both Ecole Normale Superieure and Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commercials de Paris and the inventor of a commercial-grade solar oven capable of baking 300 loaves of bread in two hours.

Despite the accomplishments of these class members, Ms. Lavelle is hardly going to be overshadowed given her experiences  while at UGA where she is a UGA Foundation Fellowship recipient who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political ecology from UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. She also was named a Udall Scholar last spring and has studied conservation and ecotourism in Fiji and Tanzania and literature through the UGA at Oxford program.

Additionally, she interned in Thailand at the Freeland Foundation, an organization that seeks to end human and wildlife trafficking, and at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Currently she is an intern at the U.S. State Department where she is researching international conservation policies and tracking economic development in African nations. In December, she presented her policy paper, “Implementing Energy Efficiency Standards to Meet Emissions Targets in Georgia,” at the White House.

Jessica B. Hunt, major scholarships coordinator of the UGA honors program, told Global Atlanta that Ms. Lavelle has excelled at the university because “she already identified a way to make an impact.”

“In her way, she represents the character of her generation,” she added. “She feels that she has to act through a commitment to her community. It’s not just being passionate. She looks for ways to make a practical difference.”

As a Schwarzman Scholar, Ms. Lavelle will study public policy, economics and business and international studies and spend a year immersed in an international community of thinkers, innovators and senior leaders in business, politics and society.

Tsinghua University was established in 1911 in Beijing, but moved to Kunming at the time of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Following World War II, it moved back to Beijing and has become a leading research university with 14 schools and 56 department with faculties in science, engineering, humanities, law, medicine, history, philosophy, economic, management, education and art.

According to its website, the Schwarzman Scholars program was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship. Stephen A. Schwarzman, the founder, personally contributed $100 million to the program and is leading a fund raising campaign for an additional $350 million from private sources in an effort to support up to 200 scholars annually from the U.S., China and elsewhere in the world.

Mr. Schwarzman, a co-founder of the Blackstone global investment firm in 1985, is its chairman and chief executive. According to its website, the firm began with an investment of $400,000 but current has more than 2,000 employees in 18 offices worldwide with a portfolio of companies that employ more than 570,000 people across the globe “making us a major factor in economies around the world.

The scholarship is fully funded for all participants, including travel costs and a personal stipend. Support for the program has come from PepsiCo Foundation, Volkswagen, Johnson & Johnson, Econtet Foundation, Lenovo and the Varkey Foundation. Scholars are to live and study together at the Schwarzman College, the academic and residential building built exclusively for the program at Tsinghua University.