Pascual Cortes-Monroy Edwards ’17, who is currently at work in his native Chile on a project to prevent wildfires and monitor climate change from space, will cross the globe to China this coming summer as a Schwarzman Scholar.
He will join a class of 145 Schwarzman Scholars in Beijing in August 2020. The elite program, inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship and designed to build strong links between future leaders of China and those from the rest of the world, began in 2016. It takes place on the campus of Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious universities in China.
Cortes-Monroy Edwards was one of more than 4,700 candidates. Just over 400 international finalists, hailing from China, the United States and locations all over the world, were interviewed earlier this year. Applications came in from 41 countries and 108 universities.
While at Amherst, Cortes-Monroy Edwards spent a year studying foreign policy at the London School of Economics and contributed to research at The Brookings Institution on the economic impact of democratization.
Today, Cortes-Monroy Edwards works for Bain & Company’s London office and is currently on an “externship” training program, working for a computer startup for which he is leading the launch of Chile’s first commercial satellite aimed at preventing wildfires and monitoring climate change.
“I am most proud of having maintained our satellite’s focus on environmental causes,” he said in his Schwarzman application. In a field dominated by military and surveillance applications, “leveraging AI ethically is at the core of my beliefs.”
“Our satellite will be built in Lithuania, fitted with a camera from China, powered by algorithms developed in Chile, launched in India, and will orbit the earth every 90 minutes,” he continued. Considering the global nature of this project and its use of artificial intelligence, the Schwarzman seemed an ideal next step: “I will be able to embed myself in a country and region that is driving innovation in the areas I am most passionate about.”
Cortes-Monroy Edwards believes that progress comes from empathy—an idea he says he picked up in a Russian literature class at Amherst while trying to understand the tribulations of introspective protagonists.
“I have spent the past 25 years spread across three continents, and though this may speak to the privilege of my upbringing, it is also telling of the increasingly connected world we live in,” he wrote in his application. “I have experienced the potential of AI first-hand ... and I believe its impact on local and foreign policy is imminent.”
Schwartzman Scholars, according to a program statement, demonstrate “exemplary leadership qualities and the potential to bridge and understand cultural and political differences.” They pursue master’s degrees in global affairs with a core curriculum focused on China, global affairs and leadership.
Three Amherst alumni were among the program’s inaugural class of 2017: Richard Altieri ’15, Servet Bayimli ’16 and Carlos Gonzalez Sierra ’14. Amherst’s most recent Schwarzman Scholar was Mohamed Ramy ’18.