DKU students awarded scholarships to prestigious Yenching Academy

Two students from Duke Kunshan’s Class of 2024 have been honored with scholarships by the prestigious Yenching Academy of Peking University.

Nino Nadirashvili, from Georgia, who majors in Political Economy at Duke Kunshan, and Haeji Cho, from South Korea, who studies Institutions and Governance, will receive full funding to pursue master’s degrees at the academy. The academy awards a select number of scholarships to students around the world each year.

Duke Kunshan Executive Vice Chancellor John Quelch highlighted the unique aspects of the DKU experience that prepare students for such global platforms. “The Yenching Scholarship acknowledges Haeji and Nino’s outstanding academic accomplishments as well as their potential to shape a better world. It is also an honor for the professors who assisted Haeji and Nino in their undergraduate studies at DKU.”

“I wish Haeji and Nino all the best at Yenching and will eagerly anticipate the contributions they will make on the world stage,” Quelch said.

Established in 2014, Yenching Academy is a postgraduate college at Peking University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions. Some 120 young scholars from around the world are chosen through a highly selective process each year. The cohort comprises 80 percent international students, while the remaining 20 percent hail from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Duke Kunshan’s Chancellor Yaolin Liu expressed enthusiasm over the continuing success of DKU graduates in securing places at such prestigious institutions as Yenching Academy.

“Our dedication to innovative education is affirmed again by this honor,” he remarked. “It fills me with great pride and hope that our students carry forward the wisdom, connections, and worldly insights nurtured here into their future scholarly and professional lives.”

Nadirashvili, who will study law, politics and international relations at Yenching, credits her time at DKU and Duke for developing the agility necessary for her scholarship.

“I am grateful for the rare opportunity to shape the culture of a new institution that aims to be a bridge between two worlds, as well as centering on the undergraduate student population for cutting-edge research,” she said. “The difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic demanded resilience and flexibility from our class—a mindset I believe shaped my readiness for this opportunity. Engaging with both the DKU and Duke campuses allowed me to cultivate initiatives across continents.”

She mentioned that her professors and mentors have been instrumental in her undergraduate career, citing courses such as “Writing the History of War” by Kolleen Guy and Jay Winter as transformative to her journey.

Outside of her studies, Nadirashvili has been active across DKU’s clubs and societies. She co-founded and co-directs South-North Scholars (SNS), which began with ideas over lunch and has now matured into the world’s first 100% youth-led global knowledge network on sustainable development.

Her other notable achievements include launching the renowned case competition “Solving for Humanity” in collaboration with the UN’s Human Development Report Office (HDRO) under SNS, being featured in the latest UN Human Development Report, and serving as editor-in-chief for Nexus—a peer-reviewed journal on the Global South founded under the auspices of DKU’s Humanities Research Center.

Cho, who plans to study politics and international relations, highlights the profound cultural understanding acquired at DKU. “My journey at DKU has been intrinsic to this success; it provided me with an authentic understanding of China through cultural immersion with my host family and valuable insights from a uniquely diverse student body.”

She expressed gratitude to Assistant Professor Quinlan Bowman, her mentor in ethics and public policy, whose guidance proved vital over two-plus years of research opportunities, equipping her with fundamental skills used in researching initiatives like China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). At Yenching, she plans on extending her BRI study more qualitatively, incorporating South Korea’s strategic perspectives.

“If not for DKU, I don’t believe I would have been able to make this. Every aspect of DKU’s experience has been the cornerstone of this process,” she said.

“It’s the deep appreciation of nuanced governance mechanisms learned at DKU that I’ll carry forward into my studies at Yenching.”

At DKU, Cho conducted quantitative research on the influence of the BRI in three peripheral countries. At Yenching Academy, she plans to expand this research qualitatively to explore more profound implications regarding South Korea’s involvement in the initiative.

“I hope my firsthand experiences in China, the United States, and South Korea can diversify the conversations scholars from different parts of the world have about China’s growing political power and influence.”

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