Alison and Ben, Yenching recipients

Alison McFarland (COL '18) and Ben Griffiths (COL/WH '17) named Yenching Scholars

Two alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, Alison McFarland (COL ’18) and Ben Griffiths (COL/WH ’17), have been selected as Yenching Scholars in the fifth cohort at the Yenching Academy of Peking University, the second and third from Penn since the program’s inception. They will join approximately 125 outstanding young scholars from more than 40 countries to enroll in an interdisciplinary master’s program in China Studies this September.

Alison McFarland, from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, graduated summa cum laude from Penn in May 2018, majoring in International Relations and East Asian Languages and Civilization, with a French minor and language certificates in Mandarin and Spanish.

Alison’s International Relations senior thesis traced the evolution of the UN’s Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm, examining how China and Russia have influenced RtoP development as states that diverge from the standard conception of this norm to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. In September 2018, her piece, “Arctic Options: Why American Should Invest in a Future with China” was published in The National Interest. McFarland is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a recipient of the Erik Arnetz Integrating Knowledge Award.

Alison is currently studying at the University of Bath (UK), enrolled in their MA in Translation with Business Interpreting (Chinese) program. At the Yenching Academy, she will continue to explore China’s position in the international order by pursuing a Master’s in China Studies with a concentration in Politics and International Relations.

Ben Griffiths, from Los Angeles, California, graduated summa cum laude from the Huntsman Program for International Studies and Business in 2017 with a B.A. in International Studies and Russian Culture & History and a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Operations Information and Decisions.

While at Penn, he served as the Director of Finance for TEDxPenn and, upon graduation, was accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society. Since Penn, Ben has worked as an analyst in private equity at Ares Management, where he evaluates potential control buyouts across a variety of industries.

At Yenching, Ben will pursue a Master’s Degree in China Studies with the goal of better understanding China and its pivotal role in the global economy.

The alumni applied to the Yenching Academy with assistance from Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. At Yenching, they are immersed in an intensive learning environment where they can explore China and its past, present and future roles in the world. The Academy’s goal is to shape new generations of global citizens with a nuanced understanding of China. Since its founding in 1898, Peking University has played a central role in China’s modern history. The Yenching Academy’s innovative interdisciplinary curriculum and rigorously selected cohort of young scholars from around the world exemplify Peking University’s quest for excellence.