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Shafeek-Horton ’20 to study at Tsinghua University in China as a Schwarzman Scholar

Tom Coyne

Amina Shafeek-Horton '20 (far right) met with former Finland President Tarja Halonen, former Iceland President Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, former Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Council of Women World Leaders Secretary-General Laura Liswood and former Switzerland President Simonetta Sommaruga. (Photo provided)


Amina Shafeek-Horton ’20 was seemingly destined to be a Schwarzman Scholar, beginning preparations years before the program was founded in 2013.

All she needed to do was beat out 4,000 other highly qualified candidates.

“This is an opportunity to continue to deepen my understanding of China and also engage with a group of people with different experiences that all led to this unique program in Beijing,” she said.

The Schwarzman Scholar program, a prestigious graduate fellowship program founded in 2013, is designed to build a global community of future leaders who will seek to deepen understanding between China and the rest of the world.

Shafeek-Horton was one of 150 scholars selected from more than 4,200 applicants.

It’s a path Shafeek-Horton began in kindergarten when her parents enrolled her in an elementary school where from kindergarten through fifth grade her math, science and social studies classes were all taught in Mandarin. She had an hour of English and another hour of music, reading or art that also were taught in English.

She not only learned the language, but also China’s culture and history.

“I found an affinity for the Chinese language and Chinese culture and began participating in Chinese speech and writing competitions. I continued to do that through high school and found different ways to engage with China. Dr. (John) Buggeln, my AP World teacher, helped organize lessons for me to learn how to play the guzheng, a 21-string traditional Chinese instrument,” she said.

A few years later, when she was in fourth grade, she fell in love with Culver when her mother, Timika Shafeek-Horton ’86, now president of the Culver Legion, brought her to the campus of the boarding school in Indiana for a reunion weekend, her first trip to campus.


Amina Shafeek-Horton in Egypt. (Photo provided)


“I just remember being a fourth grader and thinking, ‘People really go to a school that looks like this? This seems so cool,’ ” she said. “I remember seeing the horses and the students and thinking, ‘Wow, I want to go here.’ ”

Her parents told her she would need to try to earn a scholarship to attend Culver and were happy when they learned she was advancing in the process for a Batten Scholarship. Batten Scholars must show a demonstrated excellence in academics, citizenship and character, involvement in school and community activities and a commitment to contribute to life at Culver in and out of the classroom. She was selected.

While at Culver, the Court dormitory student got to learn even more about Chinese culture because there are a number of Chinese students. She also took Honors in Chinese where her project focused on ways to improve the educational environment at Culver for Chinese by helping teachers understand Chinese cultural values and how that influences Chinese students’ behavior in the classroom.

“Some teachers at Culver did not know that in the Chinese school system asking a question may be viewed as disrespectful. So that would be one reason why a Chinese international student may not engage as much in the classroom,” Shafeek-Horton said.

It was while she was a sophomore at Culver that Shafeek-Horton first heard of the University of Southern California’s World Bachelor in Business program, where students spend their first year studying at USC, their sophomore year studying at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, their junior year studying at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, and their senior year at any of the three universities before graduating with a business degree from each university.

Shafeek-Horton thought that would be perfect for her because it allowed her to have culturally immersive experiences while also giving her real-world experience.

Shafeek-Horton works as the sole intern for the Council of Women World Leaders, a network, affiliated with the United Nations Foundation, of 90 current and former female prime ministers and presidents whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders on issues of critical importance to women.


Amina Shafeek-Horton (far right) with colleagues from the World Bachelor in Business program during a hike in Hong Kong. (Photo provided)


She said she saw the internship posting on LinkedIn and was selected from more than 1,000 applicants. She started in July 2023, working to maintain and engage the network of current and former female prime ministers and presidents. She recently helped organize the Council’s recent meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, attended by more than 500 people.

She’s met former Finland President Tarja Halonen, former Iceland President Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, former Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė and former Switzerland President Simonetta Sommaruga.

“I’m very grateful to be able to be in spaces like these,” she said.

She also was an intern at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she conducted research and provided recommendations on non-governmental organizations’ operational policies in post-COVID China and Singapore.

She is excited to get started as a Schwarzman Scholar this fall. Shafeek-Horton said she hopes to walk away from the program with a deeper understanding of the many different people who live in China and their perspectives and how China operates.

 “I think that China is a very relationship-based country. I want to hopefully understand the ins and outs of how that works and how I can leverage that as someone in the diplomacy space,” she said.

She also just wants to have new experiences, whether that is traveling outside China or inside China and engaging with local traditions and customs.

She remembers when she was on an exchange trip in seventh grade and seeing older people in parks doing tai chi exercises together and she and her classmates joining in.

“I’m looking forward to getting into a routine of doing what Chinese people do and being able to engage with them,” she said.

She’s also eager to learn from the other impressive Schwarzman Scholars.

“I can’t wait to be able to talk to them and see what they’ve done and what they think about what's happening in the world, where they want to be,” she said. “I think for the most part we all want to be some type of change-maker. So it'll be cool to be in that environment exposed to things that I have no idea even exist right now.”

Her goal is to have a career in diplomacy. Who knows, she may someday be the first Culver graduate to be secretary of state.

“I want to be in a role where I am able to interact with the entire world and make policy that a positive impact and is informed by understanding the daily lives of people around the world,” she said.

Amina Shafeek-Horton '20 has been named a Schwarzman Scholar. (Photo provided)


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