MAY 22, 2019 12:15 PM
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois senior Gabriel Wacks, of Skokie, Illinois, and a graduate of Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield, Illinois, has been selected as a Yenching Scholar at Peking University’s Yenching Academy. David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois, said Wacks is the first U. of I. student accepted into Yenching Academy.
Wacks in September will join approximately 125 outstanding young scholars from more than 40 countries to enroll in an interdisciplinary master’s degree program in China studies. Yenching Academy brings together students who have demonstrated skills in leadership and innovation. Yenching Scholars are immersed in an intensive learning environment to explore China’s past, present and future roles in the world.
Yenching Academy provides full fellowships to its scholars and offers a wide array of interdisciplinary courses on China in the humanities and social sciences. Yenching Scholars choose courses from six research areas, and engage in field studies and research related to their specific areas of interest.
At Illinois, Wacks majors in East Asian languages and cultures, concentrating on Chinese history and politics. He is studying abroad on a Boren Scholarship, pursuing intensive Chinese language studies at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in China. Wacks previously interned at the Field Museum of Chicago, where he researched Song dynasty-era maritime trade, particularly Chinese exports and their impact on the economy of Southeast Asia. He also worked with Illinois professor Cliff Singer researching China’s nuclear weapons development and how China’s military outlook and current focus on attaining technological parity with the West was influenced by the Opium Wars.
“I want to study the historical and societal precedents behind Chinese politics,” Wacks said. “Yenching Academy’s program will give me the proper tools to synthesize my interests in politics and history, and allow me to pursue a career dedicated to promoting cooperation between China and the U.S.”