WASHINGTON (December 14, 2017) — Howard University senior and International Business major Jordan Culpepper of Hazel Crest, Illinois, has been named an alternate for the 2019 class of Schwarzman Scholars. Culpepper was selected for this distinction alongside the 147 winning scholars, chosen from over 4,000 applicants from 39 countries and 97 universities spanning the globe.
According to program founder Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone Chairman, CEO and co-founder, this third year of the Schwarzman Scholars program represents the growth of its network.
“It has been incredible to see the program expand to 13 new countries and 51 new universities included in the Class of 2019,” said Schwarzman. “Meeting these people from all over the world, who at such a young age have already started to make an impact in their respective fields, has been truly inspiring.”
The Rhodes Scholarship-inspired master’s degree program pays full expenses for each awarded student to attend Schwarzman College, located at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
Culpepper is the second Howard student to advance in competition for the Schwarzman Scholarship—the first student being HU alumna, and similarly International Business major, Greer Roberts (B.B.A. ’17) of the 2017-selected Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2018.
“I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded students who, in 10-15 years, I would see running for President and leading on the world stage,” said Culpepper.
“Having back-to-back finalists indicates the strength of the International Business program at Howard and the natural pipeline occurring between the major and the Schwarzman Scholars program in Beijing,” said Director Kari Miller, Ph.D., Howard University Office of Honors and Scholar Development.
Coincidentally, according to Culpepeper, a former White House intern, Roberts’ encouragement was a guiding force in his decision to apply, as was the program’s leadership focus—with a board of trustees in Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell (two former African-American Secretaries of State), the Former President of France, the Former Prime Minister of Australia, World Bank Presidents, Fortune 500 Executives—and the realization an expert-knowledge of China wasn’t required. The latter became significant for the many times over mock-interview-prepared Culpepper in the finalist round, in which he was one of 400 students to interview before panels in Beijing, Bangkok, London, and New York.
“To my astonishment, I wasn't asked one question about China, …not one,” said Culpepper. “The panel had looked in-depth at my application and asked very introspective, personal questions about my leadership qualities.”
“It is with great pride and on behalf the School of Business that I congratulate Jordan Culpepper on his outstanding achievement as a Schwarzman Scholarship alternate,” said HU School of Business Dean Barron Harvey, Ph.D. “Jordon has continued to distinguish himself as a dedicated and hardworking student who embraces excellence in all his undertakings. Congratulations!”
At the last moment of Culpepper’s final interview in New York, the door to the room opened and in walked the former editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Rick Stengel—acquainted through their former White House workplace.
“He walked in and said, ‘I hear you want to be a Diplomat…’ I gazed, wide-eyed for a split-second, and got right back into ‘diplomat-in-training’ mode,’” said Culpepper.
According to Culpepper, that need to stay on topic was critical to his objective.
“There is something special that happens to the mind when you see real luxury, for example the Grand Mosque in Dubai, and real poverty, a family of 9 in a one-room house with no running water in Tanzania,” said Culpepper. “There is something about creating friendships with those from other countries, and being able to engage in real dialogue about your differences and your similarities. International study shouldn’t be seen a chance to sometimes show out on social media, rather it should serve as a chance to leap out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in all this world has to offer.”
As Culpepper’s path was influenced by Howardites, he offers advice to younger generations: “Authenticity and Self-Awareness will carry you way further than raw talent and skill will.” And with that advice, Culpepper provides revelation—the opportunity for HU students to lead in privileged space, where only three and seven African American students were admitted in the program's first and second years, respectively.
“I think the program is yearning to have more students of color, but those students aren’t applying, so that immediately washes your chances of being admitted, “ said Culpepper. “Of the roughly 75 American students they interviewed over a two-day period, there were six students of color....6. Let that sink in. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. APPLY APPLY APPLY.”
About Schwarzman Scholars:
Schwarzman Scholars was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, which was founded in 1902 to promote international understanding and peace, and is designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. Blackstone Co-Founder Stephen A. Schwarzman personally contributed $100 million to the program and is leading a fundraising campaign to raise an additional $350 million from private sources to endow the program in perpetuity. The $450 million endowment will support up to 200 scholars annually from the U.S., China, and around the world for a one-year master’s degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s most prestigious universities and an indispensable base for the country’s scientific and technological research. Scholars chosen for this highly selective program will live in Beijing for a year of study and cultural immersion, attending lectures, traveling, and developing a better understanding of China. Admissions opened in the fall of 2015, with the first class of students in residence in 2016.
Photo by: Justin Knight, Office of University Communications