Zanele Mahlangu (23), a Chemical Engineering graduate from the University of Pretoria, is the only South African chosen as a Schwarzman Scholar to pursue a one-year master’s degree in China in 2020. Launched in 2016, the scholarship is designed to respond to the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century. According to the Schwarzman Scholars website, “Regardless of politics, business or science, the success of future leaders around the world will depend upon an understanding of China’s role in global trends.”
The 2020 cohort of 147 scholars, selected from over 2 400 applicants, is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40% originating from the United States, 20% from China, and 40% from the rest of the world. They will pursue a rigorous and innovative Master’s degree in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University, one of China’s leading tertiary institutions. The curriculum bridges the academic and professional worlds to educate students about leadership and China’s expanding role in the world.
Students can focus on public policy, economics and business, or international studies. The programme affords scholars learning opportunities with leaders from China and the world through high-level interactions at lectures, an internship programme, a mentors’ network, and intensive travel seminars. Mahlangu, a Business Analyst at First National Bank says, “I am honoured and excited to be part of the 2020 cohort of Schwarzman Scholars. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about global affairs and enhance my leadership skills, as well as contribute my skills to the programme.
I am excited to learn from excellent mentors and successful leaders, and I look forward to being in a class with promising young leaders from around the world who are effecting real change in their spheres of influence.” She says she chose to study engineering because it involves coming up with solutions for real, practical problems. “I knew that as a person who gravitates towards problem-solving, I would enjoy the course.” She is a published author in the Italian Chemical Engineering Journal, an accomplishment she achieved through her undergraduate research project. Mahlangu is passionate about social justice and economic equality in South Africa, and says she has experienced many challenges.
“I have had disappointments and setbacks professionally, academically and personally, and I imagine everyone else has. I think I have grown to manage better with setbacks, because I have changed my perspective on failure. Rather than failure being something we should fear, failure is a large and critical part of the journey. It is through setbacks and disappointments that we learn, improve, revise, and do better.” She has been involved with multiple community projects like Zama Lesedi, an Enactus project (the world’s largest experiential learning platform, dedicated to creating a better world while developing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and social innovators).
It is aimed at providing solar lights to a community without electricity. Mahlangu plans to major in Economics and Business in her master’s studies, and says she’ll use her knowledge to alleviate poverty in community projects she’s involved in. She wants to “contribute to the economic development of my community by engaging with small businesses and contributing to their growth.” The Schwarzman scholarships were inspired by the world-famous Rhodes Scholarship. Blackstone Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder Stephen A. Schwarzman has personally contributed over $100 million (R1,4 billion) to the programme, and is leading a fundraising campaign to raise an additional $500 million (R7,1 billion) from others to endow the programme in perpetuity. Schwarzman Scholars has already raised $578 million (R8,2 billion) towards this $600 million (R8,5 billion) goal.