Saara Shanti Kumar ’17 has been chosen as one of the 2021 class of Schwarzman Scholars, a worldwide network of talented young leaders. She is among 145 scholars who will enroll in August 2020 in Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing for a one-year master’s program in global affairs.
Kumar is based in New York City as a program quality and business development associate for Trickle Up, an international poverty alleviation NGO. She designs partnerships between governments, the World Bank and the United Nations.
She studied international agriculture and rural development at Cornell in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and served as executive director of Cornell Abroad Ambassadors and as a resident adviser.
Her formative international learning experiences as an undergraduate involved fieldwork with farmers, as an intern with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Gabon; on an independent study project in Madagascar; and as a member of a Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) in Colombia.
Kumar also has studied and worked in Burkina Faso, Guatemala, India, and Trinidad and Tobago. Her postgraduate experience has included food security work with NGOs, facilitating strategic planning processes with policymakers and leading trainings for rural farmers on telecommunications technology.
The fifth class of Schwarzman Scholars was selected from more than 4,700 applicants. The Class of 2021 includes scholars from 41 countries and 108 universities.
“I applied to be a Schwarzman Scholar because I want to understand the decisions and policies that led to China’s success in alleviating poverty on an unprecedented scale and timeline,” Kumar said.
She plans to concentrate her studies in public policy with a focus on Chinese policies on agriculture, food and poverty alleviation. Coursework involves travel across China and emphasizes leadership training, with opportunities to meet and learn from international leaders from a variety of fields.
Kumar said she hopes to build on her undergraduate studies and draw lessons from China’s agricultural development experience that may be applicable to other parts of the world.
The scholarship program is designed to prepare its graduates to build stronger relationships between China and a rapidly changing world, and to address the pressing global challenges of the 21st century. The core curriculum is taught by international faculty and focuses on China, global affairs and leadership, and is aligned with current and future geopolitical priorities and challenges.