Something exceptional happens when students transform their thinking from “me” to “we.” They no longer conceptualize ideas from one narrow perspective. Instead, students gain a global outlook. International business and Chinese studies senior Ryan Starkweather lives in Tulsa, but his passion stretches all the way to China.
Starkweather was accepted into the Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows Program, which is a part of the alumni network of the Obama administration’s One Million Strong initiative. The leadership conference is four days at Harvard University in the fall. “I will learn about intercultural communication and how to organize events that bridge the cultures of U.S. and Chinese students,” Starkweather said. “The goal is to allow American and Chinese students to get to know each other and have a closer bond, and tie those communities together on campus.”
Over the Summer, Starkweather honed his foreign policy skills at the U.S. State Department. In the United States Foreign Service internship program, he worked for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of Public Diplomacy. The 10-week internship included three weeks of intense training to pass the Foreign Service Officer Test. “We met with Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Prudence Bushnell and many other inspiring and incredibly intelligent people,” he said.
From writing research papers to public statements, he studied U.S. policy and organized international visitor groups. Sometimes he questioned, “How in the world is this going to get done?” But with the help of the state department public servants, Starkweatehr learned to be flexible and jump into any situation. “It was really great to learn how to manage all of that uncertainty; just go forward through it,” he explained.
After entering the TU Global Scholars program, Starkweather quickly learned to adjust for different cultures. “The program focuses on global challenges including population, resources, energy, conflict and governance, and all these topics are relevant to today’s world,” he said. “It expanded my perspective on how the issues are interconnected and how they might play into each other.”
Studying abroad in Nanjing, China, Starkweather tested his Mandarin skills. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., he committed to solely speaking Mandarin, which helped him live with a home-stay family. “They treated me like one of their children,” he said. “They made sure I was home before it got too late, and told me to put on more clothes because they didn’t want me to get sick.”
Eagerly awaiting next summer’s assignment, Starkweather will be working in a foreign embassy. Also, he is applying for the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship at The Washington Center and the Junior Fellowship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. When Starkweather envisions his future, there is a host of multicultural experiences involving foreign policy and national security. “For any freshman who would like to travel abroad, the Global Scholars program prepares you to know some of the global challenges and to be familiar with intercultural communications techniques,” he said. “It connected me with all the resources I need to be successful.”