Three Princeton seniors and two alumni have been named Schwarzman Scholars for 2022. The Schwarzman Scholarship covers the cost of graduate study and living toward a one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
The Princeton winners are Class of 2022 members Amina Ahmad, Justin Curl and Katherine (Katie) Dykstra, as well as Class of 2018 graduate Edric Huang and Class of 2016 graduate Nicholas Keeley. They are among the 151 Schwarzman Scholars representing 33 countries and 106 universities. The scholars will enroll at Tsinghua University in August 2022 to pursue a master’s degree in Global Affairs.
The scholarship program was founded by Blackstone investment firm co-founder Stephen Schwarzman.
Ahmad is from Lahore, Pakistan. She is concentrating in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) and pursuing a certificate in South Asian studies.
Ahmad said her interest in international affairs was shaped by her childhood in Lahore and one day hopes to join Pakistan’s public service. She said she’s especially interested in studying the relationship between Pakistan and China while a Schwarzman Scholar.
“As a Pakistani who studies in the United States and has worked with organizations from Denmark to India to Sub Saharan Africa, I will draw on my diverse experiences to bring a unique perspective to classroom discussions,” Ahmad said in her application. “Having invested so much of my time at Princeton in building community, cultivating diversity and participating in dialogue, I hope to [also] bring these passions to Tsinghua University.”
Ahmad’s senior thesis is about the impact of violent conflict on maternal healthcare utilization in Pakistan and her junior task force research project examined how the government in Pakistan and UNICEF could overcome vaccine hesitancy and improve polio vaccination rates in Pakistan. In recognition of her work, she was awarded SPIA’s R.W. van de Velde award for outstanding junior independent research.
“Amina and I have had multiple conversations about her experiences, ambitions and passions, and her desire to make the lives of her fellow Pakistanis better,” said Alyssa Sharkey, a lecturer in SPIA. “She has made it clear that she intends to use the education and skills she has received here to serve the people of Pakistan throughout her career. The Schwarzman Scholarship will enable her to gain a better understanding of China’s development model and to apply the lessons she learns from it to her home country, particularly as she works to improve the lives of Pakistan’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged.”
At Princeton, Ahmad is a residential college adviser in First College, a fellow at the Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, a James Madison fellow, a senior commissioner for Ambassador Rick Barton’s task force on peace-building and systemic change, and president of 180 Degrees Consulting, a student-organized consultancy that works with organizations seeking to improve education, alleviate poverty and improve the global community.
Her international experience includes a summer internship at the Danish Institute for Human Rights through Princeton’s International Internship Program (IIP). She analyzed national action plans for Thailand, Kenya and Argentina and undertook a comparative analysis to draw out best practices for National Human Rights Institutions across the globe. She also interviewed stakeholders from Nigeria and Tanzania to assess the impact of energy transitions on female entrepreneurs.
Ahmad’s experiences also include working as a research assistant in the interdisciplinary Behavioral Science for Policy Lab at Princeton, a volunteer for the crisis chat line CONTACT of Mercer County, a college counselor for the Brooklyn College Awareness Program, a director for Princeton Model United Nations Conference and a participant in the Dialogue Across Difference program, a facilitated dialogue surrounding issues of race, ethnicity and social justice in society and on Princeton’s campus.
Curl, of Santa Monica, California, is a computer science concentrator pursuing a certificate in technology and society.
Curl’s senior thesis research aims to remedy the performance disparity of artificial intelligence and machine learning models when they are applied to different demographic groups without collecting more data.
“Majoring in computer science has shown me just how profoundly artificial intelligence and machine learning will shape, affect and influence the lives of human beings without the input of human beings," he said in his application. “As we develop technologies with such far-reaching potential, I want to ensure we do not lose sight of the consequences for real people, dedicating my undergraduate career to the single goal of promoting the thoughtful development and use of AI.”
Curl said spending a year in China as a Schwarzman Scholar will allow him to study how technology is developed and controlled by private and public sectors, and how policymakers and business leaders can work together to set acceptable uses for technology.
“Justin stands out through his work ethic and communication skills,” said Arvind Narayanan, an associate professor of computer science and Curl’s senior thesis adviser. “He is ideally prepared to undertake graduate study at the intersection of computer science (especially machine learning) and social science. Stewarding the responsible development of machine learning is one of the most critical questions facing our society today, and Justin is exceptionally well prepared to work in this area and make deep and lasting contributions.”
Curl has been involved in the Princeton Model United Nations, serving as secretary general and director general of crisis committees. He competed at the 2019 World Model United Nations event in Madrid. He also is a member of the Princeton Debate Panel.
He is a research assistant for Markus Prior, professor of politics and public affairs, and Curl was part of the project team’s research presentation at the 2021 American Political Science Association conference.
“Justin has been part of our Time in Politics project for two years now. We investigate how ordinary people evaluate policy outcomes that occur years in the future,” Prior said. “Justin does much of the programming of our survey interfaces and has become a valued co-author. He brings impeccable work ethic, boundless curiosity and unfailingly positive attitude to our teamwork.”
Curl’s other experience includes a summer as a business analyst at McKinsey and Company, a software engineering intern for cloud-based banking platform Blend and a special projects intern for Cellphire Therapeutics biotechnology firm in Rockville, Maryland.
In addition, Curl is a member of Butler College, an Orange Key admission tour guide and a volunteer for the suicide prevention hotline CONTACT Princeton.
Katherine (Katie) Dykstra
Dykstra is a computer science concentrator from Ponte Vedra, Florida, with academic interests spanning public policy, computer science, investing and business. Her senior independent work focuses on artificial intelligence, specifically China’s recently released draft regulations regarding content recommendation algorithms.
“With a wide range of interests that amalgamate at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and public policy, I believe the Schwarzman Scholarship will allow me to continue becoming idiosyncratically dynamic and adaptable,” Dykstra wrote in her application. “Based on insights from my time at Tsinghua, I hope to influence decision-makers within technological policy and renew the foundation for how the global approaches the future of AI and tech policy.”
Dykstra has been a leader for many organizations at Princeton. She was director of human capital for the student publication Business Today; director of technology for Business Today’s 2019 international conference; and an investment analyst for the student-run investment organization Tiger Capital Management. She currently serves as vice president of the independent student eating club, Ivy Club.
A member of Rockefeller College, she is also an undergraduate course facilitator for “Introduction to Computer Science” and was a course grader for “Introduction to Programming Systems” for several semesters.
“Katie has the intellectual ability, drive, initiative and cultural curiosity to succeed [as a Schwarzman Scholar],” said Narayanan, who has taught Dykstra in computer science courses and advised her research. “These interactions have left me with no doubt of her first-rate creativity and leadership potential.”
Beyond Princeton, Dykstra has completed software engineering and product management internships at Microsoft and Citibank. Last summer, she began worked as an investment analyst for the New York-based firm Ruane, Cunniff and Goldfarb.
She also was a participant in the Florida State University Young Scholars Program, completing a six-week summer program in computational science and astrophysics.
Huang, of Brooklyn, New York, is a 2018 alumnus who earned a degree in anthropology and a certificate in creative writing. He graduated summa cum laude and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society.
His senior thesis “Life’s Good Ailleurs: The Labor of Hope Among Sudanese Asylum Seekers in Paris,” received thesis prizes from the Department of Anthropology, University Center for Human Values and the Andre Maman Senior Thesis Prize for outstanding thesis on culture, politics or society in France.
Huang’s thesis research at Princeton led him to a career focused on immigrants and refugees, and he said he hopes to become an international migration lawyer. He was program director at Emma’s Torch in New York City, which works directly with refugees to provide job placement and social services; a community engagement fellow at North Brooklyn Neighbors, a translator and interpreter for asylum seekers and case workers at Respond Crisis Translation, and a global climate justice advocate for SustainUS, which focuses on global climate justice campaigns across five continents.
Huang now works remotely as a senior program manager for global careers and alumni success at Re:Coded, a nonprofit dedicated to training and empowering future technology leaders from under-resourced communities around the world; and he serves as head of programming at Studio ATAO of Los Angeles, a nonprofit that creates educational tools and resources for individuals and organizations through a social justice lens.
“I have been working with migrants at various stages of the resettlement process across three continents. My experiences at Emma's Torch and Re:Coded have afforded intimate access to the failures of our global refugee regime,” he said in his application essay. “As a Schwarzman Scholar, I want to turn my attention toward solutions and perspectives from a region that is both under-represented in my professional experiences and under-discussed in the context of forced migration. As an aspiring international migration lawyer, I hope to deepen my understanding of China’s relationship with forced migration and international development, with a goal to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue toward a better refugee regime.”
At Princeton, he was a research fellow at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and participated in an Arabic language immersion program at AMIDEAST in Morocco.
“Edric was a truly extraordinary student, as well as a very promising global citizen, with much social justice research, volunteer work and advocacy experience with marginalized populations already in hand,” said Laura Coyle Rosen, assistant professor of anthropology.
She added: “Edric's exceptional academic performance along with his successful completion of several complex research and advocacy projects position him as an ideal candidate for this scholarship. His combined trajectories of public advocacy and his study (and practice) of poetic self-expressions are most creative, highly original, very compelling and of great significance for the public interest and for the understanding of a diverse and more inclusive society.”
Nicholas Keeley is from Lexington, Virginia, and graduated in 2016 with a degree in East Asian studies. He was student company commander of the Princeton Army ROTC program and served in the U.S. Army as a platoon leader, company executive officer and assistant battalion operations officer.
After his Army service, he enrolled in a dual masters’ degree program at the University of Virginia and expects to earn degrees in data science and business administration this May. This past summer, he interned as a senior strategy consultant, advising on global pandemic prevention measures alongside a team of data scientists.
“As a former soldier, student of East Asia and aspiring data scientist, I feel uniquely situated to help public and private organizations overcome two significant threats to peaceful decision-making in the future: the complexity of big data and Sino-U.S. regional differences. In short, I believe the key to solving both problems will involve translation,” Keeley wrote in his application.
Keeley said he’s particularly interested in artificial intelligence and how political, military and business leaders can use data to think creatively and develop strategic guidance.
“I believe the peaceful coexistence of America and China’s national AI development initiatives will depend upon translating them through the lens of regional understanding,” he said. “I hope to contribute to this effort by leveraging my appreciation of the historical, political and cultural landscapes of both countries, as well as my proficiency in their respective languages.”
Paize Keulemans, associate professor of East Asian studies, said: “Nick brings not only a rich understanding of contemporary Chinese politics to Schwarzman, but also a remarkable amount of creativity, as well as the ability to turn what others see as an obstacle into a strategic advantage.”
Keulemans said he will always remember Keeley’s defense of his senior thesis, titled “Rhetorical Ambiguity and Its Reception Abroad: A Roadside Perspective of the ‘One Belt, One Road,’" about China’s global infrastructure development strategy.
“We asked Nick to give a brief, informal summary of his thesis in Chinese, and Nick, fully dressed in suit and tie, stood up and addressed us as if he was leading us into battle,” Keulemans recalled. “With all the drama and gestures and heartfelt emotion, the moment resembled the famous speech given by Henry the Fifth in Shakespeare. Nick obviously got an A for his thesis and defense, but the point is that I can imagine Nick working the same magic in any situation or any organization with pretty much anybody, American or Chinese. He is the kind of leadership figure you will gladly follow, no matter what direction he is heading in.”
In addition to his military service, Keeley’s international experiences also include participation in the Princeton in Beijing program, study abroad at the National University of Singapore and a summer internship at United Technologies Corporation’s Beijing office.
At Princeton, he was also captain of one of the University’s Mock Trial teams and a member of Whitman College.