Midia Shikh Hassan has been selected to be part of the Schwarzman Scholars program, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, offered to the most talented young leaders. Schwarzman Scholars will pursue a fully funded one-year Master’s Degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s most renowned universities. The program was founded by Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of The Blackstone Group, a global private equity firm, with the goal of providing future global leaders with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the 21st century’s most pressing challenges, and about China's growing role as a global power.
Midia has been chosen as one of the 145 Scholars for the 2021 cohort, out of 5,000 applicants. She is a double alumna from the Faculty of Engineering and currently works as the Manager of the Makerlaunch program at the University of Ottawa. She also founded her own company, Dextra, which provides 3D printed prosthetics arms to those in need. She was awarded the CBC Trailblazer Award in 2019 as well as the 2019 Facebook Social Entrepreneurship Award, and Queen's Young Leaders award in 2018.
Before her departure to China as a Schwarzman Scholar, in August 2020, we asked her a few questions about the program and about her role as a young global leader.
How did you hear about the Schwarzman Scholars program and when did you decide to submit an application?
The first time I heard about this program was in 2018. I met one of the Scholars in this program in London, UK when we were receiving the Queen’s Young Leaders award. I was very keen to learn more about this program given that it focuses on skills and topics that are not within my personal experience but offers an interesting global perspective to some of the world’s pressing issues.
Why did you want to be a part of the Schwarzman Scholars program?
I have been involved with several initiatives locally and globally that made me realize the importance of developing skills that are crucial to navigate different industries and sectors to help me advance in my career. I have been interacting with governments, major NGOs and the technology industry. I decided to apply to the Schwarzman Scholars program because I knew that this program would allow me to develop new set of skills and provide me with new hands-on learning opportunities. I am also very interested in better understanding China’s impact on the current global economy and trade and how China’s role will change and evolve in the future as new geopolitical and technology changes might rise.
In addition, the Schwarzman Scholars provide a global network made of many youth globally who come from different backgrounds and industries. This unique network was my other motivator to apply, I am very excited to be part of this global community and be able to foster collaboration in the future.
Can you tell us about the selection process?
The Schwarzman Scholars is a highly competitive program. The application process included filling out a form about my education and work along with two essays. The first about my personal leadership and the second, a letter of intent for the program. This year the program received more than 4,700 applications of which around 400 applicants were invited to the final interview in different cities including New York and London. My interview took place in New York City so I got the chance to meet Stephen Schwarzman before my interview. The interview was a conversation style interview with six panelist who are in various leadership positions from different industries and sectors. The program selected 145 scholars this year.
How will this program help you reach your professional and personal goals?
Over the past few years, I have embarked on new experiences that have helped me find the issues that I care about and want to impact. My general interests lie in the future of technology innovation and its impact on societal issues, specifically on education and healthcare. I am working on investing in myself to grow my leadership skills and my knowledge in topics like public policy and politics. This program also provides the scholars with concrete training on leadership skills and the ability to dive deep into different emerging topics globally.
I have no doubt, that this program will help me gain the skills and knowledge needed to better understand the role of China as a global power and also the future of technology innovation.
What are you most looking forward to from the Schwarzman Scholars program?
I am really looking forward to the whole experience in China. I know that the learning, the growth and the challenges that I will face will help me gain new skills and experiences. In addition, I am fascinated with languages and cultures, so I am looking forward to learning Mandarin and living in China.
Are there any topics of interest that you would like to explore further during your Master’s Degree at Tsinghua University?
This Master’s degree allows the scholars to choose between three main themes: public policy, economics and business, or international studies. I am interested in the economics and business stream. This program is designed to allow the scholars to gain and strengthen their knowledge in different topics and to get an insider view on China in relation to those topics.
Are you excited to spend the year abroad? Will you have time to travel and explore China?
The program provides a unique experience called Deep Dive. The Deep Dive is a one-week, mandatory field based course that gives students the hands-on experience to learn about a different region of China as well as explore topics related to the main themes offered in the program which are economic, social, and political development.
As a young leader, what impact do you want to leave on the world?
With our ever-changing economy and politics, I really hope I am able to affect change from a leadership position in the future. I hope that I can use my skills, experience and network to foster collaborations between industries and organizations. I can comfortably say that I know who I want to be but not what I want to be! I am looking forward to the new experiences and the journey that the Schwarzman Scholars program will bring my way.