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Hunter’s First Schwarzman Scholars: Three Students of Global Affairs Win a Top International Prize

Hunter celebrates the momentous news that Elliot David ’19, Joy Nuga ’17 and Christopher Sperrazza ’19 have all been awarded Schwarzman Scholarships. Next August, joined by other young scholars from around the world, they’ll head to Beijing for an extraordinary year of graduate studies in global affairs.

Only four years old, the Schwarzman Scholars Program has quickly become one of the world’s leading programs for graduate study abroad. With full funding for coursework, research, internships, living expenses and intensive travel, Schwarzman Scholars earn a master’s at Tsinghua University, one of China’s elite academic institutions. As each student pursues a concentration in either public policy, economics and business, or international studies, all collectively explore the economic, political and cultural factors behind China’s emergence as a global power. Most important, as part of an international community of accomplished leaders and thinkers, they learn from one another and build valuable networks.

This fall, after reviewing 2,887 applications from China, the U.S., and around the world, the Schwarzman Scholars Program named its next incoming class. Only 147 candidates won acceptance to the Class of 2020, and to have three from Hunter in that select group seems like a remarkable feat – until you look at the Hunter candidates’ lives and achievements so far.

Born and raised in Westchester, Elliot David delayed starting college, first pursuing a volunteer two-year stint in the Israeli army. He learned fluent Hebrew in two months, overcame a fear of heights to become a paratrooper, and ended up interviewing for Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College from his military base.

As a Hunter student, he completed an environmental internship at the Trust for Public Land, and during a summer in Portugal, did an independent study of plastic pollution in ocean waters and assisted with conservation efforts. On campus, he was president and co-founder of the student club VIEW, which fosters constructive dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last summer, he interned for the U.S. Department of Energy in its Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, and he is now completing an energy-focused internship at the Clinton Foundation. He plans to focus his graduate studies on the alleviation of international conflicts through the use sustainable technologies that address the conflicts’ socioeconomic and environmental causes. After receiving his master’s, he’ll continue to pursue green goals by entering political life or working in the private sector.

Joy Nuga, a graduate of Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College, is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in the Bronx, she credits her time at St. Jean Baptiste, an all-girls high school, and her mentors both there and at Hunter, for her growth as a woman of color determined to make her way in business and world affairs.

While majoring in economics with a double minor in math and German, Nuga earned a public policy certificate at Roosevelt House and served in the Hunter College Senate, rising to its highest student position of vice-chair. As a junior, she completed internships with UBS Private Wealth Management and the cybersecurity company iQ4/CWA, and won the nationally competitive Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University. As a senior, she was named a Franklin Williams Scholar in Energy & Geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Currently a risk analyst at Goldman Sachs, she expresses the hope that her studies as a Schwarzman Scholar will help her become “a global leader in the intersection of finance and cybersecurity.” Perhaps one day, she adds, she’ll also have the chance to work for the State Department in global cyber affairs. Whatever lies ahead, she sees the Beijing-based program as “the best opportunity to truly understand a country that will be at the pinnacle of business, finance and technology.”

Christopher Sperrazza, a proud son of Middle Village, Queens, says the diversity of his home borough “made me who I am and shaped my interest in public service.” He was raised by a single mother whom he credits for working tirelessly to make a living and pay the rent, and also for pushing him to get the best education possible. A graduate of Aviation High School, he initially planned to join the military. But he decided instead to apply to college and won acceptance to Hunter, where the wise Office of Undergraduate Admissions saw his talent and potential.

Soon, he says, thanks to professors “whose own experiences help them understand where you’re coming from,” he was thriving academically while holding down jobs three days a week and attending five classes on each of the other two days. He became the College Caucus chair for the Young Democrats of Queens County, and, determined to push the government to address poverty and homelessness, the youngest-ever member of his local Community Board. Last year, as a member of Hunter’s inaugural class of Grove Fellows, a group of promising students committed to public service, he worked with former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn researching the rise in family homelessness throughout the U.S. This past summer he completed a PPIA Fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Sperrazza looks forward to engaging with Schwarzman Scholars from around the world, and to seeing how China deals with urban and rural poverty – not only within its own borders, but as the new economic power in Africa and Southeast Asia. After returning to the U.S, he says, he’ll probably continue his education – perhaps at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Then, says this Queens Young Democrat, he’ll aim for public service on the national level.

To get expert help with applying for the Schwarzman Scholarship and other nationally competitive academic awards, Hunter students and graduates should contact The Ruth & Harold Newman Office of Prestigious Scholarships & Fellowships at (212) 396-6910 or ops@hunter.cuny.edu.

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