Tonatiuh Liévano Beltrán (’18) on the Value of Learning From a Diverse Cohort

February 26, 2018
Tonatiuh Liévano Beltrán (Class of 2018) on time spent with a cohort of global students:


I write today amazed at how much has happened since my arrival in Beijing over four months ago. It feels like a long and a short time; it feels long because of all of the things that I’ve already experienced before the halfway mark of the program; it feels short because it has only been a few months. I arrived in Beijing excited about the prospect of this year; for me, among many other things, it represented an opportunity to explore Public Policy, an interest that deviated from my undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering. I was also excited about the people I would meet, and the challenges that lay ahead.

Orientation provided a great introduction to my classmates; outings, teambuilding exercises, and spaces for reflection enabled the breaking down of barriers between us that fostered the integration of our class. I was immediately struck by my fellow scholars’ friendliness and willingness to engage, and as time has gone on, I become more and more grateful that I get to spend a few more months with them.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my classes and the lectures that I have had the pleasure to attend; indeed, a salient benefit of the program is our exposure to perspectives and points of view to which we wouldn’t necessarily be exposed at a Western university. More generally, the program has made available to us an incredible group of leaders and thinkers with whom we have the opportunity to interact in formal and informal settings, in which we can get honest perspectives that contribute a great deal to our learning and development. By far the part that I have enjoyed the most about this aspect is the opportunity for small group and individual discussions with professors and speakers. Among the most memorable interactions in this regard have been a dinner discussion with President Boris Tadic of Serbia, discussions during office hours with professor Wang Shaoguang, lectures and a breakfast with Ngaire Woods, dean of Oxford’s School of Government, and a speech and small gathering with Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation that proved inspirational in many ways.

The people have been the most rewarding aspect of the Schwarzman Scholars program; my fellow scholars are impressive and often have incredible life stories that I have learned much from. I firmly believe one of this program’s greatest strengths is the diversity of the class: we are all substantially different from each other in terms of interests and trajectories, and that has, and continues to enable us to learn a great deal from each other. Dinner conversations, class discussions, and idle time spent with my fellow scholars have been a valuable source for growth, as I learn from their example, their motivations, and their outlook on the world. I have made substantial personal progress just from these interactions.

The Schwarzman Scholars program would be much less valuable to each of us if we weren’t as diverse as a class as we are; the class size has also enabled me to have conversations with everyone. From my fellow scholars I have learned about philosophical arguments on altruism, upbringings quite different from my own, and foreign politics. Every day, I am motivated to learn more and more from them.

The program has done a wonderful job of giving us a vast array of opportunities and of investing in our development. I have gotten to know myself and possibilities for the future better. The incredible people that we get to meet have inspired me to become better at asking questions. I have been able to interact with the wider university community through involvement in the Tsinghua traditional Chinese dance group. I have found much to emulate from my peers. The variety of programming, organized by students and the program itself pushes me to think in new directions every week. This is a wonderful community that is doing a great deal to make all of us more effective.

I am most grateful to be a part of the Schwarzman Scholars program and to spend a year in China, a country by which I had been fascinated for years. Being here has led to a great deal of personal growth, and has given me a much better understanding of how I can be more effective in my dealings with others and in my career as I move forward. Learning Chinese and struggling to make myself understood has been a fun challenge. But mainly, I think I have benefited greatly from hearing and being exposed to a diverse range of perspectives and ways of looking at the world; this, I believe, is making me a better global citizen, and I’m convinced it will serve me very well in my engagement with the world moving forward.


Tonatiuh Liévano Beltrán studied Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Economics at Harvard, where he developed medical devices, was a student government representative, and worked on water sanitation and poverty reduction. Following graduation, he was a Michael C. Rockefeller memorial fellow in Brazil and Mozambique, studied Development Economics, worked on a campaign, and volunteered at a Greek refugee camp. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and very elementary Chinese. Tonatiuh is 26 years old and from the United States and Mexico.