Emory seniors, recent graduate named 2021 Schwarzman Scholars
By April Hunt | Emory Report | Dec. 7, 2020
Roda Kesete, a political science and Spanish double major; Sadie Statman, a sociology major with a minor in global development studies; and 2019 graduate Zhiyuan “Dwight” Ma bring Emory’s total recipients of the prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship to eight in the program’s six years.
Two Emory College seniors with deep experience and interest in public policy and a recent alumnus now working in global business will represent Emory as Schwarzman Scholars in 2021.
Roda Kesete, a political science and Spanish double major; Sadie Statman, a sociology major with a minor in global development studies; and 2019 graduate Zhiyuan “Dwight” Ma bring Emory’s total recipients of the prestigious award to eight in the program’s six years.
They will join 140 other remarkable international scholars at Tsinghua University next fall to earn a one-year master’s degree in global affairs.
“We are thrilled to see Emory students and alumni recognized by the Schwarzman Scholars Program for their commitment to collaborative leadership and international cooperation," says Megan Friddle, the director of the National Scholarships and Fellowships Program in Emory College.
Each scholar will earn a master’s degree in global affairs, with a focus in one of three disciplines: economics and business; international studies; or public policy. Combined with cultural immersion, the program is designed to bridge academic and professional worlds to educate students about leadership and China’s expanding global role.
An Eritrea native whose family later settled in Douglasville, Georgia, as asylum seekers when she was a child, Kesete has long been dedicated to finding hands-on ways to apply her study of the differences in nations’ policies, especially in human rights.
From producing original research to volunteering to tutor children to helping develop a contract-tracing system amid the current pandemic, her efforts reflect her desire to improve people’s lives.
“My parents are some of the hardest working people I know, and they are my inspiration for how much they’ve been able to build for my brothers and me,” Kesete says of father, Gumala Ogbamichael, and mother, Senait Haileab.
When she was still in high school, Kesete founded an initiative that assisted recently arrived Eritrean refugees with language and other courses. At Emory, she co-founded the Eritrean-Ethiopian Student Union and spearheaded a similar education initiative with a local organization, while also tutoring with Emory Reads and Breakthrough Atlanta.
Already fluent in Spanish and English, in addition to her native Tigrinya, Kesete studied economic and migrant policy for a semester at the University of Salamanca in Spain, while also tutoring local children in English.
In 2019, she worked for a summer in the immigration bureau of the U.S. State Department. The State Department invited her back this past summer, to work in an economics research role in China.
She began researching the novel coronavirus shortly after it emerged, a head-start that enabled her to work remotely for the internship. It also allowed her to concurrently complete the ATL Global Hub Virtual Internship (coordinated within Emory College’s Office of International and Summer Programs), where she led an effort to develop a phone application for Emory University Student Health Services to use for contract tracing. The app is now under final review for use.
Following completion of her Schwarzman study, Kesete plans to pursue her long-planned career as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department.
Statman’s interest in global development — especially in how communities can take control to address problems — began while living in Zimbabwe as a child with her family during a period of extreme social, political and economic turmoil.
At Emory, she took courses that enabled her to critically examine the role of development aid in promoting youth empowerment and gender equity.
Statman has served for four years on the executive board of She’s the First, a group that sponsors the education of girls in developing countries, and a year as an Oxfam Change Leader, making the issue of global poverty a concern on campus.
A capstone global development course with Peter Little, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, brought those issues together. In it, Statman researched how hydropolitical conflict in the Jordan River valley intersected with peacebuilding efforts.
“Rather than viewing international development as one stream — as aid for public health or for education — I’m interested in examining how the streams intersect and can reinforce each other,” Statman says. “That gives an understanding of how local communities can enact change for themselves as the experts of their development goals.”
Statman worked as a data and policy analyst for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Africa and the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Groups (MASSPIRG), a state-level nonprofit that is part of a national confederation working on issues such as consumer protection and public health.
She is working remotely this year as an intern with the ACLU of Georgia, researching issues such as criminal justice reform and voting rights that are expected to arise when the state legislature convenes in January.
Following completion of her Schwarzman year, Statman is considering law school before working in the development field in a legal or policy role.
Zhiyuan “Dwight” Ma
Ma has been interested in public service since he was elected as student government president during high school in his native China.
At Emory, he served for four years in the Student Government Association, including two years with the Oxford SGA on Emory’s original campus in Oxford, Georgia, and a year as president of the SGA in Atlanta.
That experience stoked Ma’s interest in policy, especially how it can be used to bridge gaps between the United States and China. He thought he would work in non-governmental organizations that focused on those challenges until an internship with The Carter Center.
Working on the center’s website and analyzing social media and official media in China and the U.S. exposed him to ways the business world could have an impact on uniting the countries. Mentors there reinforced the idea that business could be especially important in understanding how the societies work, something he experienced first-hand with Phat Panda, a bubble tea start-up he and friend took over during his time at Oxford.
Ma took the recommendation to heart. He has worked in Shanghai as an associate with AlphaSights, a global information services firm, since graduating in 2019 with a degree in economics and international relations.
Ma applied for the Schwarzman based on the recommendation of another Carter Center mentor, China Program Director Yawei Liu. His experience in business, campus leadership and two cultures will be especially helpful in the program — and deciding his next steps.
For now, Ma plans to remain in the business world following the Schwarzman year. Emory taught him that plans can change, though.
“As an international student at any other university, I don’t know I would have had the chance to be elected to student government and be so encouraged,” Ma says. “I am thankful for Emory for supporting me even after graduation in finding ways to lead and serve.”