Program Leadership


Stephen A. Schwarzman, Founder and Chairman

Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Blackstone, Stephen A. Schwarzman founded the Schwarzman Scholars program in order to give the most talented future leaders the power to change the course of history. An active philanthropist, Mr. Schwarzman has personally donated $100 million to this effort and is leading a campaign to raise $300 million more to fully endow the program—the single largest charitable effort in China's history coming from largely international donors.

In both business and education, Mr. Schwarzman has dedicated his career to developing transformative solutions to some of the world’s great challenges. His charitable giving has included anchor support for the New York Public Library, the establishment of the Schwarzman Center at Yale University, and sponsoring educational opportunity for talented children. His vision in designing Schwarzman Scholars was to create change at a global scale.


Executive Director

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Professor Sir Nigel Thrift is the Executive Director of Schwarzman Scholars. Dr. Thrift is one of the world’s leading human geographers and previously served as Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Warwick and as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Oxford. Dr. Thrift is a Fellow of the British Academy. During his career, he has received many academic awards including the Scottish Geographical Society Gold Medal, the Royal Geographical Society Victoria Medal, and Distinguished Scholarship Honors from the Association of American Geographers, as well as honorary degrees form Bristol and Monash Universities. He was knighted in 2015 for services to higher education.



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David Daokui Li is the Mansfield Freeman Chair Professor of Economics and the Dean of the Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University. As a leading Chinese economist, Professor Li is active in policy advising and discussions. He served on China’s Monetary Policy Committee and was an external advisor to the International Monetary Fund. He is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee (CPPCC) and a member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum based in Switzerland. Professor Li holds a B.S. and Ph.D. in economics from Tsinghua University and Harvard University, respectively.


Global Director of Admissions

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Robert Garris, Global Director of Admissions for Schwarzman Scholars, has built innovative international programs at universities and foundations for more than fifteen years. Prior to joining Schwarzman Scholars, he served in senior leadership roles at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Conference and Research Center as Managing Director; Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) as Senior Associate Dean, where he worked on all academic and administrative matters for the School and was responsible for coordinating the university’s efforts to open a Columbia Global Center in Beijing and leading efforts to build a global network of partner institutions in Europe, Asia, and Latin America; and at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Garris received his Ph.D. in European History from the University of North Carolina, where he specialized in immigration and urban policy.


Executive Dean

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David Qingzhong Pan is Executive Dean of Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University, overseeing the program’s daily operations and responsible for organizing an innovative course to encourage active engagement between students and industry leaders. As an entrepreneur, David worked in the IT industry as an Engineer, Director of R&D, CEO and Chairman, and was granted various awards for technological innovation in China. Returning to academia in 2004, David served as Director of the Development Office of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (SEM), where he was also in charge of activities of the School’s Advisory Board, and taught courses and conducted research in managerial economics, corporate governance, and Chinese economic history. David received his BE in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, ME in Economics and PhD in Finance from Tsinghua University, and his MS in Engineering Economic Systems at Stanford University.


Associate Dean, Academic Affairs

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Jason Wenhao Cheng is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs of Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University. As the founding Director of Tsinghua’s Anti-Corruption and Governance Research Center, his research covers important subjects such as public governance, government reforms and corruption prevention. He was member of the China Supervision Society, Supervision Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games, and the Young Leaders Forum organized by the National Committee on United States-China Relations. He won championships in the Young Faculty Teaching Contests of both Tsinghua University and Beijing. Professor Cheng received his bachelor’s degree in International Politics from Peking University in 1996 and his doctoral degree in Political Science from Yale University in 2002. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2003.

Melanie Koenderman

Associate Dean, Student Life

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Melanie Koenderman, Schwarzman Scholars Associate Dean for Student Life, has spent over twenty years blending her interests in education, student development, and internationalization into a varied career. For the nine years prior to joining the Schwarzman Scholars program for its inaugural year, Melanie helped to launch Canada’s first independent liberal arts and sciences university, Quest University Canada in British Columbia, as the founding Dean of Students and Vice-President. She previously brought her interest in education to her time spent as a Canadian diplomat, working on foreign student policies and programs with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and representing Canada during postings to embassies in India, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. She previously managed student residences, international student services, and English language programs at various universities and secondary schools in Canada and abroad. Melanie studied literature at McMaster University, earned a teaching degree at the University of Ottawa, and completed a Master of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland.