Ana Chen ’23 was named one of two Schwarzman scholars from Stanford in the 2024 cohort on Dec. 7.
The Schwarzman scholarship was founded by Stephen A. Schwarzman to give students an opportunity to study at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, through a one-year fully funded master’s degree leadership program. According to the Schwarzman website, future scholars should “demonstrate academic excellence, exceptional results in their field and outstanding leadership qualities.”
Chen is a senior from Seattle, Washington majoring in international relations (IR) with a strong interest in creative writing. She chose to study IR because of her own experiences growing up as a Chinese American who struggled to define her relationship with China.
“I didn’t really have a template or community to think about how I might relate back to China, like how I might think about the fact that China is a contentious political entity right now. Or how the things my parents say about China might not align with what China is right now,“ she said.
Chen said she studies IR to understand the nature of her relationship with China and how exactly she relates to China. As a part of this process, Chen delved into academic research. Starting the summer before her sophomore year and continuing through her junior year, Chen conducted research with the Freeman Spogli Institute’s Center for International Security and Cooperation on the relevance of AI when it comes to the great power competition between the United States and China over security architecture. She has also researched diaspora migration, migration patterns, brain linkages, and how diaspora ties in with China’s geopolitical plans with the Asia Pacific Research Center.
Chen applied to be a Schwarzman Scholar largely because she wanted to continue her journey in academia in a different country. Growing up, Chen said she spent spend time in southern China and eventually worked in China during summer 2021.
“I keep hearing stories about Beijing, but I’ve never really gone, and I think Beijing is kind of the hub of academic activity in the way that Shenzhen is sort of the hub of economic activity, so I wanted to get a different perspective on China from the North,” Chen said.
The scholarship was an opportunity to observe China before eventually deciding what to study for her PhD, Chen said. She proposed a project focusing on the different art districts and creative spaces around China in her application.
“I want to look at how national social political identities are created through cultural industries and what this means for the Chinese government’s plans for its identity,” she said.
For example, in Shenzhen, the government designed the OCT-LOFT complex which draws its aesthetic design and inspiration from different art spaces in Beijing and Shanghai that are traditionally considered subversive and are usually more censored, Chen said.
Chen’s mentors, like Stanford Arts Institute Associate Director Jessi Piggott and International Relations Honors Program Director Erica Gould, were thrilled to learn that Chen was named a Schwarzman Scholar.
Piggott met Chen through the Honors in the Arts program, where she regularly met with Chen to discuss her honors project, a novel that is set in a futuristic and alternate version of Shenzhen. Gould met Chen through the IR Honors Program and mentored her as the director of the program.
“She has been a joy to mentor. She is extremely hardworking and determined, and I’ve really enjoyed learning more about how she is pursuing similar questions through both empirical positivist research and creative writing,” Gould said.
Both Piggott and Gould wished the best of luck to Chen as she continues to combine creative art with her research.
“I wish Ana the very best in Beijing! I know she’s got great things ahead of her, and I hope very much that making art continues to be a part of her life,” Piggott said.