USC Dornsife alumnus receives prestigious Schwarzman scholarship to study in China
A well-traveled filmmaker and producer who graduated from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2016 is one of three Trojans selected this year as Schwarzman Scholars.
Christopher Carpenter, along with USC alumna Gabrielle Roberts and senior Songzhi “Richard” Huang, will travel to Beijing next fall to complete a one-year master’s in global affairs.
Carpenter is among 145 students and recent college graduates selected from more than 4,700 applicants from 41 countries. Schwarzman Scholars study at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of the country’s most prestigious universities. The scholars will gain leadership skills, learn about Chinese culture and study with top professors and students with the broader goal of understanding China’s role in global trends.
“Exceptional leadership, remarkable character and strong intellectual capacity are the benchmarks to become a Schwarzman Scholar,” said USC Provost Charles F. Zukoski. “Our recipients meet and exceed those. They have impressive interdisciplinary backgrounds and will go on to become global leaders to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. We are very proud of these students.”
Cultural understanding through media
Carpenter graduated with degrees in cognitive science from USC Dornsife and film and television production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. For the last three years, he has crisscrossed the globe to produce films and other media in foreign countries.
Christopher Carpenter leads a photography workshop for young people enrolled in Dream a Dream’s life skills programs in Bangalore, India. (Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Carpenter.)
During his travels in places like Japan, India and Kenya, he became increasingly fascinated with the cultural meaning behind movies and other art forms. The recent boom in Chinese cinema spurred him to apply for the Schwarzman Scholars program.
“It is very much like the Wild West,” said Carpenter, 26. “This is an industry that is totally blossoming in China, and nobody has figured it out yet.”
He had previously visited Beijing, Shanghai and Kaifeng as a USC student through Global East Asia, a study abroad research program offered by USC Dornsife’s East Asian Studies Center. When he returns to Beijing in August 2020, he plans to explore both the culture and business of filmmaking in China. That includes the implications of a policy for international film productions that requires hiring Chinese actors and crew members.
Carpenter also hopes to build on his experiences directing a documentary series in India called The Happiness Diaries for the government of Delhi about an education reform initiative. The series explored how the initiative affected students by focusing on their personal stories.
“The most important stories we can tell are those of the human individual, and it takes a high level of cultural, historical and social education and exposure to be adept at telling those stories,” Carpenter said. “Because China is growing increasingly important to global narratives, it then becomes that much more important to find and tell those individual stories, too.”
Carpenter’s long-term plans include continuing to create content from behind the camera, working with actors or documentary subjects to tackle complex global and cultural issues.
“I want to be able to produce media that is culturally sensitive, commercially viable and global in its reach,” he said.
Schwarzman Scholars: A legacy of success
Carpenter joins a growing list of Schwarzman Scholars from the university. USC Dornsife graduates Jack Huebner and Matt Prusak were tabbed for the overseas master’s program in 2018. In all, six Trojans have been named Schwarzman scholars since the program launched in 2016.
All USC scholars benefited from support from experts in USC Academic Honors and Fellowships while writing their application, preparing for interviews or both.
More information about the scholarship, including selection criteria and application requirements, is available at USC’s Schwarzman website.