Working with retired NBA star Yao Ming was just one of the highlights of senior Yvonne Lee’s summer internship at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, an opportunity supported by the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
Political science major Yvonne Lee, ’19, hopes to work full time in China someday. To test the waters, she spent 10 weeks last summer interning at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, a global policy think tank in Beijing. The job - available through the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies - allowed her to dive into global policy issues, understand the inner workings of a global research center, connect with Stanford alumni overseas and work with former NBA star Yao Ming.
Located near Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center was established in 2010 as the Chinese branch of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It convenes scholars who engage in policy analysis and development with the goal of advancing international cooperation. But like any young organization, the center is trying to establish itself.
Yvonne Lee works with children at a camp sponsored by retired NBA star Yao Ming. (Image credit: Courtesy Yvonne Lee)
"The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing is a unique collaboration between a top university in China and a storied institution in Washington, D.C.," Lee said. "But doing this kind of policy research in China presents new challenges and opportunities."
One of the center’s challenges is building and diversifying its lineup of scholars, which currently includes experts in nuclear proliferation, global governance, trade, climate change and security, among other fields. One of Lee’s responsibilities was to search for up-and-coming Chinese scholars who could contribute to the center. "It was very fulfilling for me to bring on these newer scholars - particularly women - because having diverse perspectives is what makes the center special," she said.
As a member of the center’s communications team, Lee’s day-to-day work involved conducting research, prepping documents and helping plan events, including the 8th U.S.-China Civil Dialogue, a gathering of scholars from both countries to discuss relations. She was also able to spend a week in the city of Changsha in Hunan Province working with retired NBA star Yao Ming.
Every year Yao, who is a special advisor to the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, hosts a basketball camp for children from across the country. In addition to basketball clinics, children take classes that focus on building teamwork, leadership and communication skills. "Since China is such a large and diverse country, meeting kids from over twenty provinces in the country showed me how much more there is to learn about the country’s politics and culture," Lee said. "It was also a chance to give back."
When asked what it was like to meet the 7-foot-6-inch basketball star, Lee said, "It’s really obvious that he cares about helping kids build both inner strength and physical fitness."
Yvonne Lee, center row and farthest to the left, with other volunteers at Yao Ming’s summer basketball camp in Changsha, Hunan Province, China. (Image credit: Courtesy Yvonne Lee)
In addition to meeting Yao, Lee connected with Stanford alumni working in China, an opportunity that was facilitated by the Haas Center for Public Service. One of the alums she met works with the U.S. Ambassador to China, and another works for the United Nations Development Program. Both were very open and honest about their experiences in China and willing to share advice about navigating a career, Lee said.
Advising and mentorship is a key part of the internship at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center. Student interns receive professional guidance from Karl Eikenberry, director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative (USASI) within the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
"Ambassador Eikenberry helped me strategize about how to make the most of my time in Beijing," Lee said. "His keen insight, kindness and intellectual generosity have been a highlight of my time at Stanford."
FSI offers several global policy internships during summer quarter that are open to undergrads and graduate students of all majors. In addition to being assigned a faculty mentor, each intern will receive a stipend to cover travel and living expenses.
Applications for USASI-sponsored global policy internships through the FSI Asia-Pacific Research Center will open on Dec. 14.