Meet the 2020-2021 Class of Luce Scholars

San Francisco, February 28, 2020 — Today, The Asia Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation announce the 2020-2021 class of Luce Scholars. The Luce Scholars Program promotes and broadens an awareness of Asia among young future leaders by fully supporting a year-long professional placement in one of 19 Asian countries. The Asia Foundation has administered the program in partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation since the program’s inception in 1974.

From 165 candidates, a diverse cohort of 18 Luce Scholars have been chosen after a three-month-long selection process which concluded in early February. Among the new scholars is an active-duty servicewoman in the U.S. Coast Guard College Pre-Commissioning Initiative; a trumpet player who uses generative artificial intelligence to design musical instruments; a senior research analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who stress-tests financial institutions for the health of the U.S. financial system; and a Muslim-American who works for the New York Police Department and studies government response towards extremism. From creative writing and visual arts, to economics and health policy, and biomechanics and neuro-engineering, the breadth of the scholars’ passions and experiences, along with their intersecting interests and experiences, will expose each individual to new perspectives and opportunities for growth.

Increasing environmental and climate-related risks are a central concern for the scholars’ generation, as they work to build climate resilience from a wide range of vantage points: human-centered design; transportation and urban planning; sustainable development; climate-induced migration and domestic worker rights; environmental justice and public health; investigative reporting; and sustainable textile production. Cohort learning is a significant part of the Luce Scholars Program, and we look forward to seeing the 2020-2021 cohort’s collaborations.

On June 14th, the 2020-2021 class of Luce Scholars will begin their orientation in New York and embark on their journey to Asia. We are thrilled to welcome them to the program and excited to see how Asia will help them envision bold new ways to transform their fields—and themselves.

Melanie Arroyave (Rutgers University, 2020) is an active-duty service woman in the US Coast Guard College Pre-Commissioning Initiative and a Labor Studies & Employment Relations major.

Gavin Brehm (Northwestern, 2020) is a triple major in music performance, cognitive neuroscience, and human-centered product design and development, and is a designer, musician and researcher.

Jackson Brook (Brown University, 2019) is an aspiring long form narrative journalist and holds a bachelor’s degree in History. He has written for the Brown Daily Herald and investigated for The Providence Journal.

Ariel Chu (Williams College, 2017) is pursuing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at Syracuse University and is an aspiring writing professor. She hopes to aid young writers in articulating and challenging their identities.

Austin Coffey (University of Oklahoma, 2019) has a degree in Letters (history, literature, and philosophy) and Economics. He is the co-author of a forthcoming book on American constitutionalism.

Jennifer Dikler (CUNY Hunter College, 2020) is an Economics and Political Science double-major. She has worked in the private, public, and nonprofit sector, and hopes to study trade and it’s effects on the economy.

Maya Foster (Johns Hopkins University, 2019) is an aspiring neuro-engineering researcher and global public health entrepreneur. Maya hopes to develop technological tools to improve understanding of incurable neurological disorders.

Annika Freudenberger (Barnard College, 2018) holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and is currently at the Meridian Institute, a non-profit consultancy, working on issues of climate change mitigation, resilience, land use, and renewable energy.

Abigail Lahnert (Willamette University, 2018) is an artist and curator, and holds dual degrees in anthropology and studio art. They founded the Museum of Reinterpretation, an educational institution in Golden, Colorado that uses curation to build genuine human relationships.

Heather Nelson (MIT, 2020) is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Design. Heather hopes to integrate mechanical engineering research and human-centered design to empower communities around the world.

Wesley Price (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2020) is an aspiring health economics and policy researcher. Wesley studies political science, biology, and mathematics, and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Economics to evaluate health policies.

Roman Shemakov (Swarthmore College, 2020) is majoring in History and minoring in Economics and Russian. Roman is passionate about sustainable and equitable development.

Bakari Sibert (Howard University, 2020) is an artist whose practice involves carpentry, illustration, and fabric dyeing. He is also a Political Science major and director of Health and Wellness for the Howard University Student Association.

Noor Tasnim (Duke University, 2018) is an aspiring biomechanist and practicing dancer with research interests in lower-limb biomechanics, musculoskeletal injuries, and performance. He holds dual-honors in Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health.

Summer-Solstice Thomas (Williams College, 2020) is a researcher and activist majoring in Environmental Studies. She plans to study how toxic industrial chemicals enter and interact with the environment to affect public health.

Shivram Viswanathan (Rutgers University, 2018) is a senior research analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he conducts academic research on banks, their regulations, their history, and how they affect household decisions.

Bennett Weissenbach (Princeton University, 2020) is studying English and Environmental Studies. Ben aspires to write engaging stories about our changing relationship to the natural world and has done field work in Alaska studying climate change.

Saifeldeen Zihiri (CUNY Hunter College, 2019) holds degrees in Religion and Political Science. Saif currently works for the New York City Police Department, where he conducts research on issues ranging from youth diversion strategies to internal use-of-force policies.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

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Related locations: San Francisco
Related programs: Leadership & Exchanges, Luce Scholars Program

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Media contacts

Amy Ovalle, Vice President, Global Communications
amy.ovalle@asiafoundation.org
415-743-3340

Eelynn Sim, Director, Media & Strategy
eelynn.sim@asiafoundation.org
415-743-3318