By Dawn Milne, Western Communications
Cynthia Liao once said she wanted to be ‘a change-maker.’ Count her one step closer to that goal today.
Liao, HBA’14, was recently named a Schwarzman Scholar, one of 145 young global leaders to receive this distinguished scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in global affairs at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She’ll begin her studies in August 2020.
One of only four Canadians named among the class, Liao is the first scholar ever named from Western in the program’s five-year history.
The Class of 2021 was selected from more than 4,700 applicants and includes students from 41 countries and 108 universities. More than ever before, this cohort expands the community of Schwarzman Scholars to include 12 additional countries and 41 new universities, including Western.
“I am inspired by these remarkable, accomplished and dynamic young individuals who will be joining Schwarzman Scholars at a time when its mission is more important than ever,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, Founding Trustee of Schwarzman Scholars. “I am excited to see how they contribute to both the Schwarzman College and greater Tsinghua University communities, and ultimately how they will apply themselves as people of consequence in their generation,”
While completing a one-year master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University, the students’ education is complemented by internships, career development mentors, high-profile speakers, and opportunities to travel throughout China.
Inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, the Schwarzman Scholarship program began in 2015 to bring together talented young leaders and prepare them for the geopolitical and economic challenges of the 21st century by deepening their understanding of China.
Liao has long had an interest in solving global problems. In 2013, she was chosen for The Next 36, Canada’s most selective program for young entrepreneurs, due to her passion to use social entrepreneurship to find solutions to the world’s problems. The following year, she was part of a team tackling former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s health-care challenge at the fifth annual Hult Prize Competition in Dubai.
She is currently a Senior Associate on the Global Markets team at Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. Through her work, she partners with global donors, medical device companies, and governments across Asia and Africa to innovate, commercialize, and scale health-access solutions. These include pneumonia diagnostics, medical oxygen therapy, assistive technologies for people with disabilities, and solar energy electrification for off-grid, rural health centres.
Previously, she helped launch a $300-million distributed solar investment fund at General Electric.
Liao is excited to consolidate her passions and experiences to launch her own company addressing challenges in health and energy access in developing countries. She plans to use her experience at Schwarzman College to better understand the economic and political influence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2021 comprises a remarkable group of individuals “whose talents are as diverse as they are inspirational,” according to organizers: a Scholar from Chile who led the launch of the country’s first commercial satellite to prevent wildfires; two new Schwarzman Scholars who hold patents, including one for a process to detect diseases like Alzheimer’s via retinal imaging; an NCAA Division I athlete; a five-time Carnegie Hall pianist; a machinist and welder who built shelters for more than 26,000 earthquake victims in Nepal; one of BBC’s Most Inspiring Women of the Year; and, the CEO of a company from Syria that provides 3D-printed prosthetics to refugees.
“Each one of these scholars has demonstrated excellence in their chosen field of study,” said Xue Lan, Dean of Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University. “We look forward to welcoming this incredible group to Schwarzman College, where I have no doubt they will impress us all with their intellectual and leadership abilities.”