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Marshall Student Named 2024 Schwarzman Scholar

Marshall Student Named 2024 Schwarzman Scholar

Senior Amina Shafeek-Horton joins the cohort of elite scholars in China this fall.

01.17.24
Amina's headshot.

Amina Shafeek-Horton is one of the newest Schwarzman Scholars.

[Photo courtesy of Shafeek-Horton]

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The night before one of the most consequential days of her life, USC Marshall senior Amina Shafeek-Horton was trying to relax as best she could. Her friend had popped over from a nearby Halloween party (dressed as Catwoman) to help. Shafeek-Horton ordered delivery and talked about other things despite the fact that, in a mere matter of hours, she’d be interviewing to join the Schwarzman Scholars.

The SCHWARZMAN SCHOLARS is one of the most prestigious student programs in the world — and perhaps the most important. Founded in 2016 by American financier Stephen A. Schwarzman, the program allows 150 exemplary students a chance to earn a fully-funded master’s degree in global affairs from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. With political tensions between China and the United States near all-time highs, the program hopes to bridge the divide between the two great nations.

This coming fall, scholars will journey to the Chinese capital to become the program’s newest cohort. One of these top-tier students is Shafeek-Horton, who’s finishing up her WORLD BACHELOR IN BUSINESS degree. This specialized undergraduate degree allowed Shafeek-Horton to study in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Milan while also pursuing a laundry list of impressive diplomatic accolades.

The Marshall student works as an intern with the COUNCIL OF WOMEN WORLD LEADERS, an independent network of current and former women prime ministers and presidents. She also served as an intern to the CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE, spearheading an outreach event designed to introduce more people of color to careers in international affairs.

If there was such a thing as a perfect Schwarzman candidate, Shafeek-Horton might’ve been it.

“I’ve always been interested in U.S.-China relations,” Shafeek-Horton said. From kindergarten through fifth grade, she attended a language immersion school, taking all of her classes in Mandarin and eventually becoming fluent. In sophomore year of high school, she even participated in a six-week exchange program with a Chinese family. When Shafeek-Horton heard about the Schwarzman program, she didn’t think twice about applying.

“I remember, as soon as I heard about [Schwarzman Scholars], I knew that I wanted to do that,” Shafeek-Horton said. “My roommates who I live with right now — I’ve known them all of college — remember me talking in freshman year that I was going to apply for it.”

I want to help make policy that is informed by actually understanding people that it affects. Empathy-driven policy is what I am striving to create in whatever space that I end up in.

— Amina Shafeek Horton

World Bachelor Bachelor of Business ’24

It wasn’t easy for any candidate to get accepted. This year, over 4,200 candidates applied from all over the world. With just 150 slots available, getting in was a long shot for even the most qualified candidates, including Shafeek-Horton.

She passed the first round: an essay, a questionnaire, and a series of reference requests. Then, came the second and final round — an in-person panel interview in New York City. Just 400 students had made it this far. After months of meticulous preparation, including multiple mock interviews with former Schwarzman Scholars, Shafeek-Horton flew to New York for her appointment at the JW Marriott Essex House.

After waiting with 11 other finalists, Shafeek-Horton was led into a room with five panelists, each one’s credentials more impressive than the last. For 25 minutes, they peppered her with questions on everything from U.S.-China geopolitics to NATO admissions processes to her education at Marshall.

When it was all over, she couldn’t decide how she'd done. Shafeek-Horton didn’t have time to overanalyze the interview, however: She had to catch a flight to Iceland for her work with the Council of Women World Leaders.

Two to three weeks later, Shafeek-Horton awoke to a voicemail from a representative with the Schwarzman Scholars. She was in.

Starting in August, the soon-to-be Marshall alumna will spend a year studying at Tsinghua University, immersed in Chinese culture, affairs, and economics. Shafeek-Horton believes the program is an irreplaceable opportunity for herself and her peers, given the current geopolitical situation.

“The opportunity to be in China gives you an understanding that you can’t get in any other experience,” Shafeek-Horton said. “Whether you’re reading the New York Times or you’re listening to a podcast and you’re learning about China, actually being there and being able to have conversations with people, I think is unmatched.”

The scholars won’t be confined to the major cities alone. They’ll explore rural areas of China as well, basking in the diversity of a country with the second largest population on earth — and maybe even exposing Chinese citizens to the diversity of the United States too.

“This kind of program allows the scholars to build empathy,” Shafeek-Horton said. “I think that by us being there, it’s an opportunity for them to learn [from us] and for us to learn from them.”

It will be a challenge, but Shafeek-Horton feels her World Bachelor of Business degree at Marshall uniquely prepared her for the cultural immersion of Schwarzman, as well as provided her chances she wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed at other schools.

“I got into Stanford and Columbia and lots of great schools,” Shafeek-Horton explained. “But I ended up choosing WBB because of the opportunity to be able to travel and get an education from three different educational systems that have all been very different. And also to be able to study with the people that are from these respective regions — I think that’s also been really valuable.”

The Schwarzman Scholars program positions its students for a future of boundless opportunity. Shafeek-Horton’s passions, in particular, lie overseas, in the complex and nuanced diplomatic relationships between nations, great and small. She hesitates to reveal her ultimate ambitions, but she knows the journey involves the development of foreign policy, with a keen eye toward human rights.

“I want to help make policy that is informed by actually understanding people that it affects. Empathy-driven policy is what I am striving to create in whatever space that I end up in,” Shafeek-Horton said.

The Schwarzman Scholar program may just be the start of the Marshall senior’s dazzling career.