Fangdi Pan & The Schwarzman Scholar Program

Fangdi Pan is one of 142 selected students for Schwarzman Scholars Program, which provides full tuition for a one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She is a 2013 UW alum with majors in International Studies and Economics. Upon graduation, she earned a master’s degree in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS), and worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. She is currently working on energy-related projects for a consulting company based in Beijing. “I hope to learn the words of wisdom from professors, but most importantly, I hope to learn from other scholars! I want to learn about their view of China, of the world, and where China is going,” says Fangdi.

How did you find out about the program?

I first learned about the program in 2016. I believe I first saw it on the news and kept following it. I have a Badger friend who is also a current scholar, and talked about the program when we were both in Shenzhen. He applied for the 2018 scholar, and got it. Then later he came back and asked me to apply.

What made you decide to study in China?

I have always wanted to work in China. (Air is not as great but) China offers a lot of opportunities. I have hoped to work in the energy sector either helping a Chinese energy company to go abroad, or helping a foreign energy technology to come into China.

What was the application process like? 

Chinese applicants’ process is slightly different from the international applicants’ process. As I am a Chinese citizen, I followed the Chinese application process. Application materials were similar to each other with short essays and a short video, but we had an earlier application deadline (May instead of September). After the preliminary screening, the college will invite you to an in-person interview session. For Chinese candidates, the interview session is longer than for the international applicants. After the interview session, the committee will then make a decision and inform final scholars at the end of August.

What resources at UW-Madison did you find helpful?

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to study abroad in Madison, which is one thing I regret. I should have taken an advantage of all the study abroad programs in Madison.

Professor Ed Friedman was definitely my mentor while I was in Madison. He taught me in some political science classes for four years. Long before Madison, he used to teach at the Naval Post Graduate School, which is a few streets away from Monterey Institute (now Middlebury Institute of International Studies). He knew that I was very interested in energy security and economic development in China, so he recommended the program at Middlebury Institute to me. It was definitely a great fit for me as it combines both security studies and economics.

What have you done since graduation?

I earned a master’s degree at Middlebury Institute, which was a policy-oriented program (e.g. some graduate schools call it MPA), where you learn to dissect a piece of policy into a few aspects – economic, political and social, and how to write policy memo.

Then, I worked in the Division of Concepts and Planning in Safeguards department in the International Atomic Energy Agency. We helped Member States in our program to develop more comprehensive policy and legal framework to develop peaceful nuclear energy. We helped the inspectors in their verification missions, and planned their mission.

I currently work for a boutique-consulting firm in Beijing. The firm focuses primarily on B2B strategy consulting for foreign clients who need China’s insights, and I work mostly on energy/clean-tech related projects. For example, when foreign clients are interested in the Chinese market, we help them understand the market landscape. We help them make the first step if they are in need. If they already have presence in China, we will then develop strategies to make them excel in the Chinese market.

What are you expecting to study at Tsinghua University?

While the study in MIIS has an energy policy focus, the one in Tsinghua is slightly broader. I hope to learn the words of wisdom from professors, but most importantly, I hope to learn from other scholars! In addition, I want to learn about their view of China, of the world, and where China is going.

What is your plan after this Master’s program? 

I want to keep working in energy and clean-tech in China. Moreover, I still want to be in the consulting industry as I like the change of topics every 2-3 months and the fast-pace.

What advice do you have for students who want to get into the similar type of careers?

I can share a few tips (for those who are interested in working in consulting…!)

1 – Most of the International Studies majors have solid paper writing skills, but they maybe still need more practice or work done in quantitative analysis. If you were to take any Economics class, work with professors early on. Know how to collect basic data and other relevant information, to build models and to generate insights on your own. These will be very valuable groundwork for any consulting.

2 – Learn to present your work in front a lot of people as early as possible. And if you are learning a second or third language, try to present difficult topics with that.

Interview conducted and written by Soeun Lee, a Communication Intern at IS Major Office.

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