Senior selected for Schwarzman Scholars Program

Senior Anurag Chandran will head to Beijing for a year to pursue a master’s degree.

Four years ago, Anurag Chandran came to MU from Dubai. He left his family and everything he knew behind in the United Arab Emirates and started a new life in Columbia. During his first few weeks as a freshman, Chandran was homesick: He barely left his room and Skyped with his parents as much as he could.

Chandran, now a senior, has flourished in his new environment. After he graduates in May, he will head to Beijing as one of 111 other college students from across the country as part of the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars Program.

The program, comparable to the prestigious Rhodes Scholars program, received more than 3,000 applicants. Participants will spend one year attending Tsinghua University in Beijing to pursue a master’s degree in business, international studies or public policy.

The goal of the program is to “prepare future leaders for the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century,” according to a news release.

“Being placed in a group of such phenomenal future leaders of the world means that I get the opportunity to shape the course of the area I’m interested in,” Chandran said. “I’m honestly just honored and excited for the opportunity.”

To apply for the program, Chandran had to write three essays and submit a short video introduction. Chandran’s essays and video introduction earned him a spot with the final 300 applicants, which entailed flying to New York and interviewing in front of a panel.

His acceptance to the program was no surprise to one of his political science professors, Marvin Overby.

“(Anurag) is not just happy to be at Mizzou and in his classes, he is eager to be there,” Overby said in an email. “In an age when I've come to expect a certain affected world weariness in students, his attitude is refreshing. He has thrown himself into his education, truly capitalizing on every opportunity Mizzou offers, and making the most of his education here.”

Chandran, who will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, is specifically interested in international security and policy making. When Chandran heads to Beijing this summer, he hopes to study how China can play a role in creating peace between Southern Asia and the Middle East.

Chandran said his interest in peace and counterterrorism comes from his upbringing in the Middle East.

“It’s my region that’s being affected: The people that I know, the culture that I know, the history that I know is being destroyed, trampled on,” Chandran said. “That feeling of it could be my family, it could be my brothers and sisters, it could be my friends, really drove that anxiety about the future.

“But just being angry about something doesn’t bring about change. You have to contribute if you want to make that difference.”

But Chandran would not have found his passion for international security and counterterrorism without his experience at MU. He came to Columbia intending to major in journalism. But what he heard in some of the introductory journalism classes made him realize what he was really passionate about.

“The first thing they tell you in J-School is that you have to be unbiased,” Chandran said. “What I realized throughout my time in the journalism school was that I have really strong viewpoints and opinions and a desire to be in the forefront of politics. I wanted to be things that I would have otherwise reported about.”

But Chandran also grew outside of the classroom, taking in as many experiences as he could in the U.S. He has no family in the U.S. and as a family-oriented person, things were difficult at the beginning, he said. But things began to change over time.

“MU welcomed me with open arms,” Chandran said. “Looking back, I would say that I’m shocked by how easily I was able to call Mizzou my home and that’s because of everyone over here and the school providing the opportunity for everyone to become a part of the family. I think that has contributed to my personal growth and just my ability to confidently grab opportunities and move forward.”

And taking advantage of opportunity is something Chandran will continue to do as he heads to China. He has never been to the country before.

“I’m starting to plan what I want to do,” Chandran said. “I want to go to every province, which will be a massive task. I really want to go see and learn because I think there’s so much to be learned from interacting with people and understanding the region in ways that media and stereotypes cannot accurately present.”

But Chandran will also take advantage of the academic experiences he will have at Tsinghua University, which is ranked as the second-best university in China by U.S. News and World Report. He hopes to continue building his expertise in policy-making during his time there.

As for his future beyond the program, Chandran is not exactly sure. He knows he wants to work in public policy and acquire a doctorate after getting his master’s degree. He does not know whether he will return to the U.S.

“I’m willing to take that shift (in culture) if my job or my passion takes me to a location that I’ve never been to,” Chandran said. “Maybe in the next five years the security threat won’t be in the regions that it is in right now. I just want to bring that policy expertise to the regions that need it and try to make a difference.”

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