The mission of Yenching Academy of Peking University is to equip outstanding young scholars with a broad, interdisciplinary knowledge of China that reflects both Chinese and international perspectives, and to cultivate leaders who will advocate for global progress and cultural understanding. The program offers interdisciplinary classroom and field study of Chinese history and culture, as well as real-time issues in China’s development. The UW became a partner University in 2015.
View the Yenching Academy Scholars directory for a comprehensive list of scholars.
2020 – 2021 UW Nominees:
- Brenton Riddle
- Samuel Arnone-Roller
Senior, International Studies, CHID, Environmental Science majors
Brenton Riddle is pursuing two Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Comparative History of Ideas, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Resource Management at the University of Washington. At the intersection of these three degree programs, Brenton focuses on addressing international transboundary air and water pollution, improving the resilience of international populations in the face of climate change, and supporting the transition to renewable energy sources. He’s undertaken several projects complementing those studies including serving as an Energy and Environment Policy Intern for Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a trans-national, public-private, non profit connecting business leaders and policy makers together. While studying abroad in Rome, Italy, Brenton served as the lead researcher on energy-related critical infrastructure for the Jackson School Rome Task Force “European Defense: Strategic Choices for 2030.”
Devising solutions to combat climate change, mitigate environmental degradation, and improve community resilience are core aspects of Brenton’s professional and personal ambitions. In pursuit of those goals, Brenton aspires to see, learn, and do as much as he can in as many places as he can. This is what draws him to Yenching Academy, a place to do just that. If selected, Brenton would complete a thesis on transboundary water management and hydropower along China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Broadly, he would like to explore China’s role as an economic and technology superpower and the relationship between the country’s growth, opportunity and global partnerships with its climate change research, policy, and response. Brenton hopes his time with Yenching Academy will provide him with career-specific experience which he’ll take with him in his future endeavors.
Specifically, Brenton looks forward to supporting policy makers and other stakeholders in mitigating the effects of climate change and safeguarding the environment. He is excited about the opportunity to do this work in China through the Yenching Academy.
Brenton’s near-term and long-term goals: In the short term, Brenton plans to complete his undergraduate degrees and pursue advanced studies in a program combining his passions for the environment and international politics. Looking long term, Brenton’s goal is to work for an environmental policy think tank researching and providing recommendations on the climate crisis and worldwide environmental degradation.
Senior, Political Science major
Samuel is an 18-year-old senior at the University of Washington majoring in Political Science and International Security while minoring in Middle East Studies and Near Eastern Studies. Professionally, Samuel aspires to advance the work of the UNDP in promoting the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
After successfully lobbying for the extension of honor roll recognition to Running Start students at Central Washington University, Samuel served as a Peer Mentor for two years before being appointed to advise on Central Washington University’s regional education policy. As a student at the University of Washington Samuel took on an undergraduate research position with the Emma B. Andrews Diary Project which works to advance the public understanding of early 20th century Egyptology.
Through prospective study at Yenching Academy, Samuel hopes to unify his aspirations through study in the Politics and International Relations track. Within this field he hopes to study the disruptions to rural land governance resulting from China’s efforts to meet 2030 Sustainable Development Goals specifically in Gansu province. Alternations to local and national land governance combined with modernization and the creation of sustainable agriculture pilot demonstration enterprises are of specific interest. Samuel believes that when taken as a whole, these decisions will shape the way least developed countries – especially those challenged by desertification and other climate shocks – conceptualize their development and relationship with China.
Samuel’s near-term and long-term goals: In the next years I would like to complete my graduate studies and attain an internship with the United Nations Development Programme from which I can work toward a career in development. I would also like to learn a new language.
Samuel’s tips for future applicants:
- When you feel as if you can’t make it to the next sentence in an essay, don’t be afraid to stop. Take time for yourself and read instead; don’t endlessly pick apart your prompt or the millions of results which populate when you turn to the internet for essay tips. Read something that is engaging, something that reminds you why you push yourself so hard and to what ends.
- Organize your applications into folders and subfolders. Not for the sake of easy access, its easy to search and sort files with a click of a button. Rather, motivate yourself with this space – going through your application space is a good reminder of just how far you’ve come.
- Swap out your computer for a pen and paper and your neat workspace for the outdoors. Looking at a blue sky instead of the paint on your ceiling is an easy way to take some of the pressure off.
History of UW Undergraduate Nominees and Scholars
2019 - 2020
Shannon Pierson, Scholar (declined)
Senior, International Studies major
I am an International Studies student, specializing in cybersecurity policy in the areas of elections in democratic countries across the globe, Internet of Things infrastructure in smart buildings and smart cities, law enforcement technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. I want to position myself at the intersection of cybersecurity and human rights as a national security expert—specializing in cyberterrorism, digital information warfare risk management and ethical digital policymaking for AI technology. I aspire to serve as a career public servant in the U.S. Department of Defense, hopefully within the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, and eventually the National Security Council. My highest aspiration is to be an ethical and culturally cognizant voice in this space to craft effective cyber terrorism contingency plans and to help forge collaborative bonds between the US government, China, and Silicon Valley to help address the looming AI and internet governance challenges ahead, as well as their corresponding threats to democracies around the globe.
The field of cybersecurity and digital policymaking needs more people who understand China’s perspective. China is poised to shift the geopolitical arrangements of power in cyberspace via its Digital Silk Road (part of the Belt-and-Road Initiative), as well via its emergence as the preeminent global leader in AI technology. The developments attained through AI cannot be separated from the emerging strategic competition between the US and China. I believe the US and China must work together to lead the international community in establishing rules of the road for AI technology, as well as put forward a positive agenda of cooperation in areas of mutual strategic interest in AI advances benefiting humanity. In light of these advances, my country needs more public servants who understand the geopolitical implications of AI technology and digital information warfare from China’s perspective, who are learned in China’s domestic and foreign internet governance policy posture, and who can speak and write in Mandarin. There would be no better place to immerse myself in Chinese viewpoints than at Yenching Academy’s Politics & International Affairs program. An education that encompasses the richness of China’s culture, history, political system, and language will equip me to address global challenges in cyberspace with mutual respect for and understanding of China in my work as a public servant in the future.
Shannon’s tips for future applicants:
Don’t censor yourself and your interests in your application. Be specific about where you want to go in your career. Provide a specific thesis idea. I looked into the resources/research groups at Peking University and explained how I wanted to work with them. Shoot for the moon, they want to see that you have a goal beyond just physically being immersed in China. Be able to explain and sell your previous experience with China, in addition to why exactly it’s important for you to be physically in China at this time.
2018 - 2019
Sneha Indrajit, Scholar
2018 graduate, International Studies major
Sneha Indrajit graduated from the University of Washington, cum laude, with a major in International Studies. As an undergraduate, Sneha was a cybersecurity research fellow for the International Policy Institute with an interest in the intersections between cybersecurity and human rights. Sneha intends to pursue International Law, and a career in Foreign Service in Singapore. She hopes that a Masters in Law and Society at Peking University will inundate her with a more nuanced understanding of China, and Sino-foreign relations.
Katie-Lynn King, Finalist
2018 graduate, International Studies major
Katie-Lynn King is a recent graduate from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on East Asia and a minor in China studies. During her time at UW, she was an officer of the Jackson School Student Association and a member of the Operation Smile UW chapter and Husky Global Affairs. Her initial interest in China studies began after she took a class on China’s geography. Since then, she has traveled to China multiple times and participated in an exchange program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as summer language program in Beijing. Her senior thesis project was titled, Assessing the US Response to Combat Disinformation and examined the current administration’s actions against the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. Currently, she serves as a board member and the current intern of the China Club of Seattle.
In regards to China studies, she is interested in Chinese migration and demography. At the Yenching Academy, she hopes to delve deeper into these issues and look for solutions to the impending demographic crisis and future urban development in China. Ultimately, she hopes to help clear up common misconceptions between China and the US.
Summer Si Lo, Nominee
Senior, English (Creative Writing) major
As an aspiring novelist, Summer loves to approach challenges and opportunities from a creative standpoint. In particular, she would love to become an innovative leader that can dissolve the intimidation that a myriad of international students, many of whom are from China, feel when they pursue academic studies in the U.S. Summer has cultivated her leadership skills through tutoring, mentoring, and teaching experiences, and she is determined to make it easier for international students studying in the U.S. to access and pursue diverse learning opportunities. She decided to apply to Yenching Academy to learn more about how the philosophies and religions of China differ from those of the U.S. By exploring the sociological, anthropological, and religious aspects of Chinese cultures, she plans to utilize writing as a platform to express and share what she has learned and to emphasize how cultures contribute to the development of society as well as how the human civilization can incorporate parts of cultures from around the world to advance forward as a society. She believes that an individual’s cultural upbringing can influence one’s approach towards different aspects in life, and it is important to understand and explore this so that society can create a more inclusive, supportive, and empathetic environment to enforce educational equity for all communities. Outside of academic pursuits, Summer also simply loves to explore different languages and cultures, and she hopes to travel around the world some day as an inspirational author who can touch the hearts of people from all around the world.
Summer’s advice for future applicants:
Be confident in what you are applying for and have a thorough plan on what you can do within this program and how it can impact your life!
Madelyn Reese, Nominee
2016 graduate, English Literature
Madelyn Reese is an English department alumna (Class of 2016) preparing for a career in environmental law. After graduating with honors, she worked as a newspaper reporter for The Daily News in Longview, Washington and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Realizing that communications-based professions require logic and reasoning skills as well as cultural competency, she relocated to Madrid, Spain to teach English and learn Spanish for the 2018-19 school year.
Madelyn’s interest in the environment, especially the conservation and management of public lands, began when she was a child, when she had the opportunity to travel to various national parks across the United States with her family. She later spent two summers working in Glacier National Park in Montana, where her interest in public lands management grew. While at UW, Madelyn also obtained a minor in Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management and spent her free time volunteering with Mountains to Sound Greenway and the Washington Trails Association.
While at The Daily News, Madelyn followed a news tip that initiated a two-month investigation into the illegal wastewater dumping practices at a local treatment plant on the Columbia River. This led to heavy fines levied against the city and a restructuring of the treatment plant’s management. Madelyn never forgot the sense of pride that came from stopping further environmental degradation.
Madelyn was also member of the Review-Journal staff that covered the 2017 shooting at Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strop and who subsequently earned the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for Deadline Reporting.
Madelyn’s hobbies include hiking, running and creative writing. She has completed two half marathons and four marathons, including the 2017 Boston Marathon. Madelyn is also a part of a group of women writers who present monthly at the Desperate Literature bookshop in Madrid.
Madelyn’s advice for future applicants:
You should be able to demonstrate how Yenching will further your goals, and articulate how you will be able to make the most of your time there. Also: Be your own best advocate. Don’t be shy about sharing any and all of your accomplishments and hard work!
Chen An Wang, Finalst
Senior, Art History
My name is Chen An Wang, I go by Vivian. As an Art History major, I am fascinated with museums, curating, and any art in general. When it comes to culture and art, I seek to present Asian culture and our beautiful artifacts in front of all audiences, especially people that are unfamiliar with it. As an international student studying in the United States, I am comfortable stepping out my comfort zone, accepting new ideas, culture and I am always willing to try new things. Thus, I wish to combine both my personality and interests into my future career in museums. I aim to become a Museum curator with a focus on Chinese artifacts and curating cultural exchange exhibitions in museums.
I have been volunteering with National Palace Museum since high school and was lucky enough to intern with M50 Art District in Shanghai this summer. The Yenching Academy of Peking University stood out to me after my internship in China; it was a month filled with curiosity, cultural exchange, and making new friends and connections. The internship prompted me to explore China more and in-depth. I decided that doing graduate studies in China would be a good idea since a month of interning wasn’t enough for me.
I believe this program would provide a thorough history and background of China along with new innovations and idea-exchanging moments from diverse students all over the world. The core courses can nurture my ability in handling country-sensitive issues across different cultures. Moreover, the strong networking connections amongst this diverse program would expand my global perspective and prepare me to understand the intricacies of international relationships.
Chen An’s advice for future applicants:
It’s not going to be easy, but just try your best!
2017 - 2018
Isabelle Ayers, Nominee
Senior, Chinese Language and Literature major
I grew up mostly in the Seattle area, where I went to high school in the Kent School District and attended Running Start at Bellevue College. I began to take an interest in communication and languages and entered the University of Washington as a Linguistics major. Eventually, one language stood out to me more than the rest, and I am now a current senior majoring in Chinese Language and Literature. During a recent English-teaching trip to China, I realized their great demand for native English-speaking teachers and I now desire to study English language education policy in China in order to better understand this need. At Yenching Academy, I will research the goals that China has for English educators and what the international community can do to support these goals, for the ultimate purpose of allowing Chinese students to be better equipped for their own academic and career pursuits. I also hope to further my language acquisition and interdisciplinary understanding of China in order to facilitate more effective communication with those I will serve and collaborate with.
Tobi Du, Scholar
Senior, Political Science major
I am a Taiwanese American student studying political science with a focus on international security. I see the Yenching Academy as the next step in my personal and professional exploration of East Asia. I seek to understand the importance and role of China in global politics, as this subject has not been covered well during my studies in the United States. I envision close economic, cultural, and diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China as an essential cornerstone of the international community. I believe in the importance of understanding China’s domestic politics, which drive its responses to foreign situations, in order to shape the most effective and successful policies towards China.
I plan to pursue a career in diplomacy and policy-making as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. This year-long program will strengthen my personal and professional development by honing my cultural adaptability and personal resilience, and provide a basis for future intensive international assignments. The regional expertise that I will gain from this program is invaluable to my potential career as a diplomat, but even if I am stationed in another region of the world, I will have had the experience of adapting to and immersing myself fully in a foreign culture.
Tobi’s advice for future applicants:
Take coursework relevant to and think ahead of how you can demonstrate interest in China and its role in the world.
Caleb Huffman, Scholar
Senior, Political Science and Communication majors
Caleb Huffman is passionate about cross-cultural leadership and international policy. By double majoring in Political Science and Communication, he aims to influence the atmosphere of communities through political communication and legal systems. As a freshmen he was selected as a Gilman Scholar (U.S. State Department) and studied human migration and global cities in Rome and Amsterdam. As an inaugural fellow with the U.S.-China Initiative Student Fellows Program at Georgetown, a delegate at the Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford, and a UW Husky Presidential Ambassador to Tsinghua University in Beijing, Caleb is dedicated to building cross-cultural bridges between the U.S. and China.
Overcoming socioeconomic barriers, Caleb started college at sixteen and by eighteen officially represented youth in state government with the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Committee, which was recognized by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and lobbied several bills into law. Academically, Caleb maintains a 3.90 GPA, completed three undergraduate theses, will graduate Phi Beta Kappa, and is projected to graduate magna cum laude (top 3.3% of class). He is currently a Leadership Fellow with United States Senator Slade Gorton.
Outside of academics, Caleb enjoys running (completing his 2016 New Year’s Resolution with over 1,000 kilometers logged), pretending to understand the nuances of coffee (with a U District best cafes short list), and rooming in a fantastic house with international students from around the world. In the future, Caleb will pursue a J.D. in international law with the aim of becoming an influential actor in American foreign relations with a passion for peace.
Caleb’s advice for future applicants:
1. Know what motivates you. 2. Why China? 3. Why a master’s degree program?
2016 - 2017
Caleb Huffman, Finalist
Senior, Political Science and Communication majors
Caleb Huffman is from Onalaska, Washington, and is a double major in political science and communication at the University of Washington enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Honors College. Passionate about learning, he began college at the age of sixteen. Today, Caleb is currently analyzing Donald Trump’s stump speeches in the Communication Honors Program, while researching firearm homicide rates in the Political Science Honors Program and as a fellow with the Center for American Politics and Public Policy. Caleb studied global cities and human migrations as a Gilman Scholar in Rome, Italy. As a University of Washington Husky Presidential Ambassador to Tsinghua University in Beijing, he works to build cross-cultural understanding and develop transnational leadership skills. As a Fellow with the U.S.-China Initiative at Georgetown University, Caleb discusses and collaborates with other fellows to increase the two countries’ positive impact on the world. Outside of class, Caleb served on the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council engaging hundreds of youth in politics, successfully lobbying several bills into Washington State law. He is the President of UW’s Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honors chapter and Student Director for the Veritas Forum at UW. He works for UW admissions as a campus tour guide, having represented UW to over 2,000 potential students and their guests. Caleb has also worked for UW’s International Student Services and the Study Abroad Office assisting international learning. In the future, Caleb will pursue a J.D. in international law with the aim of becoming an influential actor in American foreign relations.
2015 - 2016
Vincent Pham, Nominee
2014 Graduate, English major, Diversity and Education, Learning & Society (ELS) minor
As a graduate from the class of 2014, Vincent Pham’s life has been quite the whirlwind. After receiving his bachelor’s education in English Literature and Language, he immediately spent the 2014-2015 school year teaching English at a gifted high school and university in Vietnam as a part of his Fulbright Fellowship. Afterward finishing his service, Vincent then went to teach English in low-income, public Chilean schools as a representative of the English Opens Doors program, managed by the Chilean Ministry of Education.
Vincent’s time overseas has shown him that education provides the most accessible and transformative people-to-people interaction- a platform where cultural misconceptions can be confronted and difference can be appreciated. While teaching English in Vietnam and Chile, his growth as a multicultural educator has shown Vincent the importance of cultivating the classroom as an intellectual and personal safe space, especially if it might not exist elsewhere for under-served students
Although his experiences abroad have currently inspired me to pursue a Masters’ Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Teachers College of Columbia University, Vincent yearns to implement cross cultural communication at higher, more institutionalized levels.
With more Chinese students studying abroad as well as the changing relationship dynamics China has with other countries like the United States, American universities need to be more proactive in understanding the individuals that enroll in order to promote a more prosperous future. In my mission to be an advocate for education as a cultural bridge between nations, I can develop the linguistic skills, historical-cultural sensitivity, and connections needed by being a Yenching Scholar at Peking University.
Regardless of how the application results turns out, Vincent is proud to be one of the first UW nominees for this fellowship and forever grateful for the advocacy and support shown by the UW Office Scholarship, Fellowship & Awards (especially Robin Chang)!
Zachary Reshovsky, Scholar
2014 Graduate, International Studies major
Zachary Reshovsky was born in Pasadena, California. Both artists by trade, Zachary’s father and mother had careers in cinematography and professional illustration respectively. At age 12, he moved up to San Juan Island, enrolling in a local alternative school. Here, he enjoyed engaging in a variety of subjects, ranging from creative writing to mock trial to geographic studies. Following 8th grade, his family moved to Bellevue, Washington, where he attended Interlake High School. At Interlake, he completed the rigorous International Baccalaureate program in 10th and 11th grade, one year ahead normal schedule. Zachary is currently a Freshman with Junior standing in terms of credits. He is majoring in International Studies at the Jackson School with an East Asia Concentration and intends to work in diplomacy and/or international human rights law following his graduation.
He sees his studies at Peking University as an extension of his obligation to the public good. The Yenching Scholarship will provide an environment where he can gain the cross-cultural life experiences that will allow him to grow into an effectual and empathetic international public servant. Ultimately, through the Yenching Scholarship he can gain much of the erudition and on-the-ground experiential skills necessary to launch a successful career in diplomacy or international policy-making.