Elaine Jeon '17 “I walked away with such an adrenaline rush,” says Elaine (Dabin) Jeon ’17 about her interview for the Schwarzman Scholarship, an online discussion with 10 leaders from the business, political, educational and nonprofit worlds. “While it was intimidating, it was one of the most intellectually engaging conversations I have had recently—they asked for my perspectives on topics from the health of migrant workers in the Middle East to the new prime minister in Japan.”

The interviewers must have gotten a rush from meeting her as well. Jeon was chosen from more than 3,600 international applicants this year to receive the prestigious scholarship to Tsinghua University in Beijing. Over the 2021–22 academic year, she and the other 153 Schwarzman Scholars will earn master’s degrees in global affairs while taking advantage of leadership development opportunities and cultural immersion in China.    

For Jeon, who has lived in Seoul, Seattle, Doha and Bangkok and is now in Singapore, the scholarship is an opportunity to pursue what she describes as her passion for “building healthier cities, with health at the forefront of every urban policy decision and multisectoral collaboration to drive sustainable change.” She wrote in her Schwarzman application that her interest in public health began in the pharmacy her grandparents have run in Daegu, South Korea, for 60 years. It has deepened through her work since 2017 with the consulting company Oliver Wyman, where she has managed collaborative health care projects in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

“My professional experience has continued to reveal how our fragmented health systems and policies prioritize economic and political agendas over the protection of vulnerable populations like seniors and migrant workers,” she wrote. “I am ready to pivot to policy-making for urban health, either through a health ministry or an urban planning capacity.”

Jeon is the sixth Amherst graduate, and the first Amherst woman, to accept a Schwarzman Scholarship since the program’s inauguration in 2016. Previous winners include Carlos Gonzalez Sierra ’14, Richard Altieri ’15, Servet Bayimli ’16, Mohamed Ramy ’18 and Pascual Cortes-Monroy Edwards ’17

Jeon appreciates the support her fellow alumni have given her during the scholarship application process: “For example, one Amherst friend, who grew up in China, jumped on a call with me a few days before the Schwarzman interview to help contextualize the large volume of news on China that I was reading.” 

While at Amherst, Jeon continued her study of violin performance, which she began at age 4. She wrote for the Amherst Student newspaper, captained the women’s Ultimate team and worked as a docent in the Beneski Museum of Natural History, among other jobs and activities. And though her major was economics, she took courses across 15 different departments and programs. “The Schwarzman approach reminds me of Amherst’s open curriculum,” she says, “and I am lucky to be in such an academic environment again.”