Date December 14, 2022
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Two Brown University students awarded Marshall, Schwarzman scholarships

Class of 2022.5 member Max Pushkin will study at Oxford as a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship, while senior Meghan Murphy will pursue a graduate degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing as a Schwarzman Scholar.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown students Meghan Murphy and Max Pushkin were named to this year’s classes of Marshall and Schwarzman scholars, two prestigious international scholarship programs that enable graduate study abroad.

Pushkin, who completed his degree requirements this month as a 0.5er, was awarded a Marshall Scholarship, which provides full funding for two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom, where he will attend the University of Oxford and the University of St Andrews. Murphy, a member of the Class of 2023, earned a Schwarzman Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious universities.

The Marshall and Schwarzman scholarships are among the most selective awards across the globe. This year, 40 Marshall Scholars were chosen from among 951 applicants from around the U.S. This year’s class of Schwarzman Scholars includes 151 scholars from 36 countries, chosen from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants.

For each of Brown’s winners, their scholarship will give them the opportunity to further their impact on the world through international study.

Meghan Murphy: Education through immersion

Meghan Murphy says she likes to think of her hometowns wherever she is at the moment, which makes sense considering her upbringing.

A senior concentrating in international relations, Murphy grew up across three continents. Her parents’ job took her abroad, where she spent her most formative years throughout Myanmar, Lesotho, Thailand, Morocco, Cambodia and the U.S. She’ll soon add Beijing, China, to her list of hometowns as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University. 

“Having the opportunity to engage with a broad variety of students from all sorts of countries who had very different perceptions of the U.S. gave me a real interest in working in foreign policy, engaging with populations across the world and serving communities like those I had grown up with,” Murphy said.  

In particular, she’s passionate about Southeast Asia as a dynamic region deserving of more attention by leaders in Washington, D.C.

Murphy’s interest in the region is driven by several factors, but one experience had a lasting impact: While living in Thailand in her early high school years, she visited Cambodia’s Killing Fields, where more than one million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.

“I’ve been thinking about that ever since,” she said. “I’ve been asking myself, ‘Did the U.S. presence in Vietnam War potentially contribute to that suffering? What should engagement on the world stage look like when there is a genocide? What should states do?’”

Exploring those questions also sparked an interest in displaced populations — and a passion for helping them. For four years, Murphy has worked with Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment and currently serves as a coordinator for the program.

“That experience is really wonderful, because it allows me to get off College Hill, get out of the Brown bubble and have meaningful engagement with populations that I hope to professionally support,” she said.

On campus and inside various classrooms of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Murphy said her excitement for the discipline is not just seen, but supported.

I think every college student debates: ‘Where might I have the most impact? How might I best serve others?’ For me, I aspire to be in the spaces where foreign policy is made — in the rooms in D.C., in the White House, in Congress.

Meghan Murphy Class of 2023, pictured with Cambodian genocide survivor Arn Chorn Pond
Meghan Murphy pictured with Cambodian genocide survivor Arn Chorn Pond

A class taught by Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs Stephen Kinzer on the history of American intervention was “transformative” in how she viewed foreign policy, while Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs Tyler Jost provided crucial guidance in both research and career mentorship. It was Jost, she said, who encouraged her to apply to scholarship programs in China and begin taking Mandarin.

“He has really taught me how to do top-tier foreign policy research,” Murphy said. “I definitely credit him with a lot of how my future career in China studies is taking shape.”

But with the world as her stage, Murphy admits that it can be challenging to choose exactly where to go. Her ultimate goal? The nation's capital.

“I think every college student debates: ‘Where might I have the most impact? How might I best serve others?’” Murphy said. “For me, I aspire to be in the spaces where foreign policy is made — in the rooms in D.C., in the White House, in Congress.”

That’s a conclusion she arrived at after much work in the field. In addition to the knowledge gained from her global upbringing and leadership roles at the Brown Political Review and Brown Journal of World Affairs, Murphy has interned at the U.S. Department of State, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Brookings Institution and the East-West Center. Furthering her experience at Tsinghua University is an important next step.

With her cohort of Schwarzman scholars, which includes students from all over the world, Murphy said she’s thrilled to be around peers who have been directly impacted by U.S. foreign engagement and to learn from their firsthand experience — especially those in China.

“I definitely acknowledge that it’s a very, very difficult time in U.S.-China relations,” she said. “I’m excited that there is such an opportunity that allows for a multifaceted understanding of China. It is going to be crucial in the years to come, because the world has entered a new era where China is a big player, and genuine cross-cultural understanding will be vital to shaping the American response.”

Max Pushkin: Finding his path by helping others find theirs

Max Pushkin had an idea of what he thought he wanted to do when he first arrived at Brown. It didn’t take long for that to change.

The Class of 2022.5 member originally declared a concentration in applied mathematics on the economics track. But when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Rhode Island, Pushkin became involved in political work, finding it so compelling that he quickly switched his concentration to the security track of international and public affairs.

He knew he found his passion by his junior year, when he took a particularly influential course on international law and the politics of human rights, taught by Senior Lecturer in Political Science Nina Tannenwald. Pushkin said Tannenwald encouraged him to get an internship the human rights field, and that summer, he found himself at the International Rescue Committee’s resettlement office in New Jersey.

“A lot of cool things I’ve done and the passion I developed in the things I study wouldn’t have come about without the professors and people I met at Brown,” he said.

In New Jersey, Pushkin spent the first half of the summer working in all aspects of the refugee resettlement process, from housing to employment to social services, specifically with Spanish-speaking refugees.

If you’re doing a program like this, you’re super passionate about something, you have experience, and you want to be a part of the next generation of changemakers in that field. I am so excited to meet the other people and see what their ideas are, to become involved with that exchange of knowledge.

Max Pushkin Class of 2022.5
Max Pushkin portrait

“But then, the Afghan crisis started,” he said. The focus of his internship was transformed within a matter of days.

In the wake of the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, Afghan refugees began pouring into eight different military bases around the U.S. The IRC quickly sent Pushkin to New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, known as Fort Dix, where he aided in the resettlement process for nearly 13,000 newly arrived refugees.

“There were so many kids just roaming around the base,” Pushkin said. “It was a really sad scene.”

With prior experience as a camp counselor, Pushkin immediately established youth programs like sports, arts and crafts and English classes. Once those were up and running, he collected and fulfilled requests from folks around the village — everything from getting bedsheets for families to investigating refugees’ legal status.

But by the fall, when he was set to begin the 2021-22 academic year at Brown, Pushkin was still at Fort Dix. Not only that, but he had also broken his foot and caught COVID-19. Worried about his status in a class he was looking forward to — Humanitarian Response to Modern Conflict, taught by Director of the Military Fellows Program and Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs David Polatty — Pushkin sent a message to Polatty, explaining his situation and that he wouldn’t be able to show up to campus until class was already a month underway.

“The email I got back, it almost made me cry,” Pushkin said. “He essentially said, ‘Max, I’m so proud of you, and the work you’re doing is incredible. Don’t worry about anything until you get back. And also, I sent a donation to the IRC in your honor.’ By the way — I had never even met this professor.”

Pushkin credits Polatty’s support for not only helping him re-adjust to life at Brown after an emotionally taxing summer, but for helping to shape his plans after graduation — law school is in the cards, he said — and encouraging him to apply for the Marshall Scholarship.

Through his Marshall Scholarship, Pushkin will enroll in a master’s degree program at University of Oxford in refugee and forced migration studies, followed by a master’s degree program at the University of St Andrews in international security studies, offering him an opportunity to broaden his perspective in the policy and governance side of human rights work and a chance to collaborate with his cohort.

“If you’re doing a program like this, you’re super passionate about something, you have experience, and you want to be a part of the next generation of changemakers in that field,” Pushkin said. “I am so excited to meet the other people and see what their ideas are, to become involved with that exchange of knowledge.”