2016 Yenching Scholars
Diana Chang

Diana Chang

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Diana Chang is from the United States. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University, where she studied Art Theory and Practice and Biology, with a concentration in neurobiology. Her grandparents, practicing artists of historic and traditional Chinese art forms—landscape painting and calligraphy—heavily influenced her early interest in art. As such, her interests in China are deeply tied to the country’s artistic traditions and culture. She hopes to better incorporate this type of understanding with economic and medical frameworks to shape a more effective future for international health policy. With a focus on rural populations in China and the greater East Asia, she is studying Literature and Culture at the Yenching Academy. Upon her return to the United States, she will matriculate into a dual MD/JD degree program for medicine and law.

Wen-Ling Chao

Wen-Ling Chao

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Hailing from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Wen-Ling Chao graduated from the Chiao Tung University, with a degree in Humanities and Social Sciences. Wen-Ling’s ancestry traces back to the Shandong province of Mainland China, from which her grandparents departed for Taiwan in 1949. Wen-Ling’s inherent interest in the social identity of Taiwan and the Mainland, both on a personal and societal level, propelled her to become an exchange student at Fudan University in 2014. Her preoccupation with social issues has not been limited to the academic world. As the chief executive of the Educational Support Group for Poor Rural Children and co-founder of the Social Enterprise Thinking Club in her college, she led more than 50 students in various social service initiatives to benefit disadvantaged children and farmers in Taiwan. Wen-Ling has also hosted many activities, such as the Forum for Post 90s, where nearly 200 students from Mainland China developed a better understanding of Taiwan’s socio-politics. To her, peaceful Cross-Strait exchanges have begun, and the communication cannot stop. To continually deepen mutual understanding between the younger generations of Taiwan and the Mainland is of vital importance. She has promoted this proposition on various platforms, the value of which was recognized in the Taiwan Best Policy Open Tournament, where her proposal emerged as one of the finalists. Inspired by her time as an intern at the office of the ex-municipal chairman of the Kaohsiung City Council, Wen-Ling plans to explore at the Yenching Academy issues concerning the Asia-Pacific, specifically Cross-Strait Relations.

Alessio Wei Chen

Alessio Wei Chen

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Alessio Wei Chen graduated cum laude in Political Science, minoring in Humanistic Studies, from John Cabot University in Rome. He then received an MSc in International Relations at the London School of Economics, where he specialized in Asia and the Pacific. His research contributes to the debate on the role of regional economic integration, nationalism and the perceptions of identities in Cross-Strait relations. An Italian national of Chinese descent, Alessio has lived in China, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Previously, he gained professional experience at the Italian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United States Embassy in Italy. He has been actively involved in the activities of Associna, the Association of Second Generation Italian-Chinese, promoting linguistic and cultural dialogue between young Italians, Chinese and Sino-Italians. His great ambition is to work for the diplomatic service representing Italian and EU interests in China. Alessio is confident that the concentration in Public Policy and International Relations at the Yenching Academy will provide a solid understanding of China to fulfil his professional aspirations. Alessio is fluent in Italian, Chinese, English, German, French and Spanish and his passion for foreign languages and cultures has also brought him to study Japanese, Arabic and Portuguese. Alessio hopes to explore his cultural heritage while studying in China and exchanging ideas with the Yenching Scholars and academics as well as the larger PKU community in Beijing.

Chen Zhuang

Chen Zhuang

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Chen Zhuang is studying Korean and Economics at Peking University and spent one semester studying at Hanyang University in South Korea as an exchange student. As the Chair of the Peking University China-Korea Communication Association, he helped organize the PKU International Cultural Festival. He has been involved in a research project on China’s water reform and water rights market jointly initiated by the University of Victoria and the Central University of Finance and Economics. At the Yenching Academy, he plans to combine the knowledge he has learned during his undergraduate studies with China Studies theories to investigate the problems China faces developing Sino-Korea trade and take advantage of this opportunity for cross-cultural exchange.

Thøger Kersting Christensen

Thøger Kersting Christensen

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Thøger Kersting Christensen majored in Asia Studies (China Studies) at the University of Copenhagen, minored in Journalism and Communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and is currently residing in Beijing. In his B.A. thesis he focused on China’s changing perception of its role in the world as seen through an analysis of CCTV’s international TV channels. He has previously done research on the dynamics and transformations of early Chinese Socialism and ancient Chinese philosophy’s impact on contemporary political theory. While studying his BA, Thøger worked at the Danish think tank on Sino-Danish relations and was a part of the editorial team of the Danish magazine on China. Thøger is an avid music lover, being both a musician and music journalist, and has followed the transformation of China’s diverse music subcultures closely. He is following the Politics and International Relations concentration at the Yenching Academy and is focusing on China’s growing influence – especially from a political-ideological point of view – on international institutions such as the UN.

Beba Cibralic

Beba Cibralic

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Beba Cibralic is a graduate of Wellesley College who spent her junior year abroad studying at the University of Oxford. She is from Sydney, Australia, but has roots in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She completed a double major in Philosophy and Political Science, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha. She wrote a thesis in philosophy on applying Just War Theory to the U.S.'s strategy in fighting ISIL/Daesh, has published on humanitarian intervention, and has presented at academic conferences in both the UK and in the U.S. on topics in ethics and political theory. She is passionate about language learning, and is on her way to becoming fluent in Russian and Spanish. Her concentration at the Yenching Academy is in Politics and International Relations. She is specifically interested in the history of Chinese diplomacy, U.S.-China relations, and contemporary political philosophy in China. 


 Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad

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Emily Conrad joined the 2016-2017 cohort of Yenching Scholars after completing a year of graduate study at Tsinghua University as a Chinese Government Scholarship recipient. She graduated from Wofford College (Spartanburg, South Carolina) in 2013 with Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude honors, triple majoring in economics, German, and Spanish. During her undergraduate career, she studied at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, Germany, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, where she gained the prestigious distinction of Matrícula de Honor. Upon graduation, Emily worked as Communications Manager for an international textile machinery firm, Atkins Machinery, where she developed new customers amounting to over $3 million in sales in Latin America and South Asia. A South Carolina native, Emily is also highly involved in local and state politics and served as Director of Communications for the American Party SC. She is also a frequent opinion columnist on domestic and international politics in newspapers and blogs. In her spare time, Emily sings opera. She began classical voice lessons at the age of seven and has studied independently with Metropolitan Opera star Victoria Livengood since 2010. Emily is also a voracious reader and writer, maintaining her own book blog, www.globalbookchallenge.com, since 2012, where she reviews at least one non-fiction book she reads about every country in the world.

Jenna Cook

Jenna Cook

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Jenna Cook is from Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA.  She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Yale University with a degree in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.  From 2014-2015, Jenna Cook was a China Fulbright Scholar in the sociology department of Wuhan University.  At the Yenching Academy, she is pursuing an M.A. in China Studies with a concentration in Law and Society.

Matthew DeButts

Matthew DeButts

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Matthew DeButts graduated from Amherst College in 2014, majoring in Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought. In 2014-15, he taught Law at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing as a Princeton-in-Asia Fellow, while working part-time as Editor-in-Chief of Legation Quarter, a Beijing-area foreign affairs newsletter. He then studied as a Chinese language student at Tsinghua University in Beijing. As a Yenching Scholar, he is concentrating in Politics and International Relations. He has diverse interests, however, including education policy, foreign affairs, and landscape design. Matt DeButts was born in Winston-Salem, NC, and raised in Arlington, VA.

Pavel Sergeevich Degtiarev

Pavel Sergeevich Degtiarev

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Pavel Degtiarev completed his undergraduate degree at University College London (UCL), where he studied Russian history at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He holds dual UK/Russian citizenship and worked at the Moscow office of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in the summer of 2015. At the Yenching Academy, he is pursuing the economics and management concentration of the Master's in China Studies program. He is interested in finance and clean energy investment in the context of China’s economic development over the next five years. Pavel completed a summer analyst program at J.P. Morgan in London before arriving in Beijing.