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W&L’s Zainab Abiza Among 2020 Class of Schwarzman Scholars Abiza will receive a master’s degree in global affairs from Tsinghua University in China.

“Zainab lives her involvement in public policy and her interest in international affairs.”

Zainab Abiza ‘19, an economics and global politics double major with a minor in poverty and human capability studies at Washington and Lee University, has been selected for the 2020 class of Schwarzman Scholars, a one-year master’s program at China’s Tsinghua University inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship program at the University of Oxford.

The class of 2020 is comprised of 147 scholars who were selected from over 2,800 applicants and represent 38 countries and 119 universities. The scholars were selected through a rigorous application process designed to evaluate academic ability, as well as leadership potential and strength of character.

“Our newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from around the world. They join a global network of Scholars who have committed themselves to being a force for change, regardless of where their professional or personal passions take them. My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined. I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Blackstone, and chairman of Schwarzman Scholars.

Zainab Abiza looks over Islamic State literature in the library at W&L.

Abiza plans to study economics and business while at Tsinghua University, and will receive a master’s degree in global affairs. Beyond the classroom, scholars will gain exposure to a broad network of important relationships through unique internships, mentorship opportunities, high-profile speakers and opportunities to travel throughout China.

The Schwarzman Scholars program is designed to prepare future global leaders to meet the geopolitical challenges of the 21st century. The vision of Schwarzman Scholars is to bring together the world’s best young minds to explore and understand the economic, political and cultural factors that have contributed to China’s increasing importance as a global power, and to make them more effective as links between China and the rest of the world.

“The accomplishments, dynamism, and commitment of this year’s class of Scholars are inspiring for all of us involved with the program,” said Schwarzman Scholars Global Director of Admissions Robert Garris. “We look forward to seeing them come together from around the world to share their experiences in business, entrepreneurship, public policy, community service, media, and many other fields, learning from each other and from their fellow students at Tsinghua.”

Abiza, who hails from Morocco, is fluent in English, French and Classical Arabic, as well as in her native language of Moroccan Arabic. Her interests in global politics and economics have led her to a number of summer experiences related to international affairs during her time at W&L.

She spent the summer following her sophomore year in Dangriga, Belize, working as an intern for the Belize Family Life Association, where she planned and led the organization’s annual summer camp, raised funds to provide free cancer screenings and other clinical services for the town’s residents, and organized community outreach events.

In the spring of 2017, Abiza served as an intern for the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington, D.C., after which she returned to campus to work as a Summer Research Scholar in W&L’s politics department, putting her language skills to work conducting counter-terrorism research.

“Zainab combines personal experience with a natural gift of analytic clarity to shed light on the most important questions in our discussions,” said Seth Cantey, assistant professor of politics at W&L. “She does this in a consistently thoughtful and professional way, benefitting the class as a whole.”

Abiza was a delegate to the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, where she participated in discussions on global markets, investments and trade and generated and presented policy recommendations that were published in the “Undergraduate Journal of Social Sciences.”

This past summer, she was one of 32 fellows at the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University, a rigorous seven-week program that prepares college juniors for advanced degrees and careers in public policy and international affairs. She wasalso awarded a Davis Projects for Peace grant, which she used to design and implement a project aimed at improving educational outcomes and creating a better learning environment for rural girls in Morocco. She is currently working on expanding this program domestically and starting her own NGO to improve educational outcomes for girls globally.

“Zainab lives her involvement in public policy and her interest in international affairs,” said Bill Connelly, John K. Boardman, Jr. Professor of Politics at W&L. “Her facility with multiple languages is a wonder to behold. Her commitment to public service is palpable and readily evidenced by her actions. Her leadership in the classroom and in various practical settings serving the disadvantaged is truly impressive. The Schwarzman Scholars Program is a natural next step as she furthers her education and experience.”