Leaves for Beijing in August
June 27, 2022
In August, Bill Kuhl ’18 will be traveling to Beijing to begin work on his master’s degree in Global Affairs. Kuhl will be one of 58 American students traveling to China to spend the next year studying at Tsinghua University as part of the Schwarzman Scholars program.
Kuhl is a 2022 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in aerospace engineering. He is also a newly commissioned Air Force officer through MIT’s ROTC program. While at Tsinghua, he will be undergoing a year of study and cultural immersion, attending lectures, traveling as much as China’s COVID policy allows, and developing a better understanding of the country and its people.
The Schwarzman Scholars program, which started in 2015, is modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship. Like the Rhodes, it is designed to promote international understanding and peace. Kuhl said his goal is to absorb as much as possible about the Chinese culture as well as learn more about China’s technological, engineering, and business concepts.
“I want to work on my ‘softer skills,’” he explained, “and I believe travel is a great way to do that.”
All the classes will be taught in English, Kuhl said, because Schwarzman is an international program. English is considered an international language. And, while he did travel to China on Culver Academies’ Global Pathways Spring trip, he didn’t study Chinese while he was a student.
But the GPS experience did whet his appetite to know more about China, he said. “It showed me how little I know” about a country that is home to one-third of the world’s population. Along with the people, he wants to study its history, business practices, and politics.
Because of China’s zero-tolerance COVID policy, the Schwarzman Scholars will be in quarantine for the first 21 days after their arrival, Kuhl explained, and their travel within the country will be restricted based on how and where any outbreaks occur. And they can’t leave until it is time to return home, he added. “You can leave early, but you can’t come back.”
Kuhl is the third Culver graduate selected for the Schwarzman Scholars program. Collin Parker ’13 was selected after graduating from United States Military Academy in 2017 and Sharon Chen was selected in 2021. She graduated from Stanford University in 2016.
The China experience is the latest in a series of achievements for Kuhl. He and seven other MIT students biked across the United States in 78 days one summer, stopping to conduct all-day Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) festivals for children living in rural areas.
“We went from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. There were eight of us and we would ride for 8 to 10 days and then stop and conduct our experiments for kids where they aren’t traditionally exposed to STEM stuff. We had a big van following us with our camping gear and science equipment. We did around nine or 10 of those learning festivals.”
Kuhl was also part of group that traveled to Stone Aerospace in Austin, Texas, to work on designing cryogenic melt probes to penetrate the ice of Jupiter’s largest moon, Europa. “The probes were designed to melt the ice, which can be miles thick, and collect and send data,” he explained. The probes were designed to melt ice at -333 degrees Fahrenheit. But COVID hit while they were working on the project in early 2020 and the MIT team simply ran out of time to complete it.
He also did an internship with Northrup Grumman, captained the Mock Trial team, mentored in makerspaces, played club hockey, and played one season on the MIT football team that went to the NCAA DIII playoffs.
All the while Kuhl was going through the Air Force ROTC program. He is now a commissioned second lieutenant and will be assigned to either the Air Force or Space Force to work in aerospace engineering when he returns from Beijing.