Nathan Levit ’20 and Caleb Visser ’20 have been awarded the Schwarzman Scholarship, which will fund their graduate study at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Levit and Visser will join a class of 145 scholars that hail from 41 countries, selected globally from a pool of 4,700 applicants. Scholars pursue a one-year master’s degree in Global Affairs with a core curriculum focused on three pillars: China, global affairs, and leadership. Courses are taught in English, according to the University’s statement.
Currently in its fifth year, the program was founded by Stephen Schwarzman, the co-founder of the Blackstone investment firm. Selected candidates were assessed not only based on their academic records but also on their leadership potential and strength of character.
The program was “inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship” and aims to “bring together the world’s best young minds to explore and understand the economic, political and cultural factors that have contributed to China’s increasing importance as a global power,” according to the scholarship’s website.
Nathan Levit, a concentrator in the Woodrow Wilson School, hails from Tulsa, Okla. and is pursuing certificates in history and the practice of diplomacy, American studies, and journalism. Levit’s personal statement stated that he hopes to take advantage of the significant academic resources on poverty mitigation available at Tsinghua.
“I applied for it to focus on how to create better low-income policy, and China’s an incredible place to learn about that because they’ve brought 800 million people out of extreme poverty over the past two decades,” he explained.
Levit has conducted policy research with several notable policymakers, including Jed Herrmann, vice president for state and federal policy implementation at Results for America; U.S. Representative Kendra Horn of Oklahoma; and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado.
When asked which professor or class at the University has inspired him most, Levit referenced a freshman seminar he took on Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Class of 1943 University Professor Emeritus Cornel West.
“[The class] was really about how to live a meaningful life,” said Levit. “It’s formed the focus of a lot of my studies.”
In his time at the University, Levit was president of the Princeton Perspective Project, which aims to ease the transition of first-generation and low-income students to college life. He also has served as an Orange Key tour guide, an undergraduate fellow of the James Madison Program, and a board member of the Center for Jewish Life and Chabad.
“He’s really bright, really sharp, exceptionally hardworking,” said former Oklahoma Representative Scott Inman of Levit, according to the University’s statement. “I think he’s the perfect fit for the scholarship.” Inman has worked with Levit since he volunteered on state campaigns in high school.
Caleb Visser of Williamsburg, Va., is a senior in the politics department, focusing on international relations and pursuing certificates in African studies and Latin American studies.
Visser said he is especially looking forward to the residential community learning experience the program provides.
“I feel very honored by the opportunity to learn from a cohort of international scholars, people who are committed to exceptional issues across a variety of fields,” he said. “I want to be a good advocate, [an] ambassador of everything that people have invested in me here” at the University.
Visser is a cadet company commander of Princeton’s Army ROTC and a distinguished military graduate, according to the University’s statement. He will commission as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army and hopes to foster solutions that serve and understand development as national security.
“Beijing becomes the perfect learning environment to explore these geopolitical issues, as China continues to expand its economic influence in the developing world,” he wrote in his personal statement.
At the University, Visser has been a residential college adviser at Wilson College, a student coordinator for the University’s Vote100 campaign, chair of the campus and community affairs committee of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and a research fellow for the Wilson School’s Innovations for Successful Societies program.
When asked what mentors have most inspired and supported him, Visser wanted to specially thank Thomas Dunne, the deputy dean of undergraduate students.
“Dean Dunne and the entire ODUS staff are so invested in students here and in helping students cultivate the sorts of actions and change they want to see,” he said.
In a statement to the University, Dean Dunne described Visser as someone always “willing to shoulder the logistical and sometimes mundane burdens to create opportunities for others to use their voice.”
“I am so excited to see how his leadership continues to evolve, both in the Army and the career in public service that will undoubtedly follow,” Dunne added.
Visser is a recipient of the Paul E. Sigmund Scholar Award, Superior Cadet Award, and the Robert L. McLean ’52 Award for Leadership and Citizenship. He has also previously interned for U.S. Africa Command, worked as a research assistant at the Global Research Institute of the College of William and Mary, and also served as a legislative research intern for Veterans Campaign during the 2018 congressional midterm elections.
“I am very aware that I am where I am only because I’ve strived to stand on giants who have come before me and who have lifted me up along the way,” Visser said.