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Jamie Wood
Jamie Wood.

International Business and Chinese language alumna Jamie Wood (Kāi Tahu) has been awarded a prestigious Schwarzman Scholar fellowship to study a master’s programme in global affairs at Schwarzman College, which sits within Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Jamie is the first Otago alumni to be awarded the prestigious graduate fellowship and will be one of 150 scholars from around the world to start the one-year programme in August 2024. Her Class of 2024-2025 cohort was selected from more than 4,000 candidates.

“I cried on the phone,” says Jamie, when the Head of Global Admissions told her that her application was successful. “I was just shocked - it was something that was a dream to even apply, and then to be interviewed – and I also felt an overwhelming sense of pride.

“Throughout the application process, I stayed true to who I am and followed my gut in my answers. I was also extremely vulnerable in my leadership essay, I spoke to the challenges I've had in my leadership journey and I was proud to tell the interview panel that the key value I will bring to the programme is my whakapapa.”

The application process included writing a leadership essay, a statement of purpose, supplying referees, answering a long list of short questions, and a one-minute video introducing herself.

She found out she had reached the interview stage, which was held in London, while she was in Taiwan on a Leadership Network trip with the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

“Between our meetings with indigenous groups, democracy foundations and Kiwi businesses, I had an incredible group of 16 young Kiwi leaders as a practice interview panel. Arguably the best way to prepare for the 25-minute interview in London!”

Jamie says she is very grateful for the support she had in putting the application together, including many calls from Taiwan with Otago’s Professor Robin Gauld, Co-Director of the Centre for Health Systems and Technology.

“The support network I had was huge, especially with Robin,” says Jamie. “The people that I met at Otago have always been encouraging and supportive in everything I’ve done.”

She says Otago also played an integral role in her success as she first found out about the programme when she was on a student exchange from Otago to Dalian University of Foreign Languages and Tsinghua University in 2017.

Jamie wood

Professor Gauld says, “This is a very proud time for Jamie and all of those who have been involved in her journey here in the South – from Columba College to Otago University. As Otago’s first Schwarzman Scholar, it’s a phenomenal achievement and Jamie will be a fine ambassador. It was a privilege to be able to help a little along the way and I really look forward to seeing what she goes on to do.”

The Schwarzman Scholars programme began in 2015 and supports up to 200 scholars annually from the United States, China, and around the world for a one-year master’s in global affairs. Inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, which was founded to promote international understanding and peace, scholars live in Beijing for a year of study and cultural immersion, attending lectures, travelling around the region, and developing a better understanding of China.

“It’s quite a unique Master of Global Affairs as they focus on three aspects – leadership, China and global affairs. The leadership aspect is a huge chunk of the programme,” says Jamie.

“The programme was established to develop leaders who have a strong understanding of China, but more importantly, a strong connection with each other. As they grow as leaders, they’ll have allies all over the world and people who encourage them in everything they do.”

Tsinghua University is the alma mater of some of China’s most influential leaders, including the current and former Presidents, Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao. The Schwarzman Scholar International Advisory Board includes international names such as Condoleezza Rice, the 66th US Secretary of State; Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia; Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Yo-Yo Ma, world-renowned American cellist.

While on the programme, Jamie is looking forward to continuing with her Mandarin studies, which she hasn’t had the opportunity to focus on since she was on exchange.

Jamie currently works as a Community and Digital Adviser for Impact Investing Network in Auckland, helping grow the impact investing sector in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her main focus is now on finding the intersection between China, impact investing and indigenous values, and how this concept can accelerate China’s climate transition. She hopes to develop her knowledge in this area during her time as a Schwarzman Scholar.

“There are not many times in your life when you can see an actual date of where your life changes or is influenced by something, so it’s one of those things I’m not having any expectations of exactly how it will influence my career,” she says.

“But I’ve been watching the programme over the years and seen the global leaders that scholars have met, community that has grown, and opportunities it has brought - it’s just insane. So I know that there’s an incredible network. I’ve no idea exactly where it will take me, but I know that it will just help me be the best leader that I can be.”

Jamie was awarded the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia in 2016, and graduated from Otago with a BCom in International Business and Chinese Language in 2018. She has previously worked as an investment adviser, in immigration and financial planning for Hobson Wealth and for a Global EduTech company. She is also a marriage celebrant, and a World Economic Forum Global Shapers Impact Officer.

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