Paul Grey Weissend, an undergraduate senior from Richmond, Virginia, has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, an international award for graduate study in China that was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship.
He was among more than 2,700 candidates from 119 countries who competed for 129 spots in the 2018 class of the program, established by Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chairman, CEO, and co-founder of leading investment firm Blackstone.
Aimed at preparing the next generation of global leaders, the program gives students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and professional networks through a one-year master’s degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
“I am incredibly excited to further challenge myself in a country that is absolutely foreign to me,” said Weissend, who has long been interested in business and entrepreneurship.
In high school, he founded a company to buy electronic accessories from China wholesale and resell them on eBay and Amazon. Coordinating with companies like Alibaba, he realized he needed to acquire a deeper understanding of China to be a successful leader.
At Virginia Tech, Weissend serves as chief investment officer of SEED, a student group that manages $5 million for the Virginia Tech Foundation through stock investments.
His work experience includes summer internships as an analyst at J.P. Morgan in New York City and GE Capital in Norwalk, Connecticut.
In the Corps, Weissend served as first sergeant of Delta Company and protocol officer of Citizen-Leader Track Battalion. Such positions, he said, “developed me fundamentally as a leader, helping me learn to motivate and empathize with an array of others.”
He spent the past spring semester in Europe as one of the university’s Presidential Global Scholars, conducting research on the refugee crisis.
The research team, which included three other Virginia Tech students, interviewed refugees at a camp in Calais, France and at a temporary stay center in Melilla, Spain. Weissend focused on entrepreneurs and their business development within the camps. His project culminated in an essay he wrote on microfinancing for refugees.
As his field research got underway, Weissend realized that he wanted to “change the rhetoric of refugees being liabilities,” he said. “The ingenuity and perseverance of refugees are incredible benefits to the communities they settle in. I thought highlighting businesses created by refugees would be a great tool to change some of the current perceptions. I wanted to focus on empowering refugees to become self-sufficient members of their communities and how the whole community benefits as a result.”
His travels in Europe intensified his desire to see and understand more of the world.
“Learning what drives people from different cultures is vital to helping affect world progress," said Weissend, who is a graduate of Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School
He added his ultimate goal is to facilitate cross-border business development and collaboration. He hopes to use his banking and entrepreneurial background and his Schwarzman Scholar experience to encourage investment and overcome cultural and political hurdles.
Students interested in applying for a Schwarzman Scholarship should contact Christina McIntyre, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more at www.schwarzmanscholars.org.