Peking University student Zhao Minglei has been named the inaugural recipient of Duke Law School’s full-tuition Global Leader Scholarship. Set to graduate this summer with a dual degree in economics and French linguistics, Zhao will be a member of the Duke Law JD Class of 2015.
Zhao was selected among nine scholarship finalists after a rigorous series of personal interviews, held in Beijing in early March, with Professor Paul Haagen and several prominent Chinese alumni: Gao Xiqing ’86, president and chief investment officer of the China Investment Corporation and a Duke University trustee; Yan Xuan ’87, president of Nielsen Greater China; Li Xiaoming ’90, who heads the China offices of the law firm of White & Case and is a member of the Board of Visitors; and Hui Mei MLS ’02, secretary of the China financial Futures Exchange in Shanghai.
“There is an enormous pool of talent in China,” said Haagen, who chairs Duke University’s China Faculty Council. “We at Duke are in the unusually favorable position of having distinguished alumni in China who are willing to put in the effort to help us identify and bring to the Law School this new generation of China’s future leaders.
“The first recipient of the scholarship, Zhao Minglei, demonstrates a combination of exceptional academic achievement, courage, drive and commitment to the betterment of society” Haagen added, noting that several of the nine finalists for the scholarship opted to come to Duke Law this fall to participate in the LLM or JD programs.
Zhao is a top student at Peking University where he has been awarded several honors, including the 2011 Feung Sungtsun Scholarship and the 2010 Model Student in Academics award. He attended Harvard Summer School in 2011 after working as an audit intern with Ernst & Young in Beijing; in that capacity, he helped conduct the annual audit of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Life Pension.
A gay-rights activist, Zhao also has served as a volunteer with the Chinese Association of AIDS Prevention and Control where he worked on legal issues for HIV-positive people and the China Red Ribbon Beijing Forum.
It is his personal experience of anti-homosexual bias that fuels his interest attending Duke and eventually pursuing a career in public interest law, he stated in his application for the Global Leader Scholarship.
“Pursuing a legal education at Duke … and a career in public interest would provide me with the tools to pursue social justice and give me the chance to offer legal services to individuals suffering from anti-homosexual bias.”
Through his Duke Law course work and affiliation with such organizations as OUTLaw, Zhao anticipates gaining hands-on experience and access to influential networks “that are indispensable” to his goal. He also looks forward to contributing to LGBT life at Duke “by bringing in a new Chinese perspective,” he wrote in his application.
Multilingual and a self-described “culture vulture,” Zhao noted his interest in taking advantage of Duke Law’s extensive network of exchange programs to explore the diverse legal systems of different countries and expressed gratitude for the Law School’s longstanding efforts to attract international students and, in particular, Chinese students.
“It was the first law school to attract Chinese students after the Cultural Revolution and those former Chinese scholars have realized impressive changes in China,” he wrote. “Duke University is also launching a new campus in Kunshan, breaking new ground by bringing liberal arts education [to] China. … Duke is a school that cares about Chinese students.”
Duke’s many ties to China include the Richard M. Nixon Scholarship program, which brought a number of distinguished Chinese scholars to Duke Law during the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Gao, Yan, and Li; the Duke Asia-America Transnational Institute in Law in partnership with the University of Hong Kong, founded in 1995; and various exchange programs for both students and faculty.