When Roman Shemakov ’20 got the call that he was receiving a Luce Scholarship, he thought he was being pranked.
“It took me a few seconds to come out of the daze, in the middle of a global studies seminar,” he says. “The confusion quickly turned to ecstasy.”
Shemakov, a history major who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine in 2009, is one of just 18 students from across the country to receive the highly competitive Luce Scholarship this year. He will explore international affairs in Asia for a year.
“I hope next year will be an opportunity to delve deeply and critically into a new nation, a new language, and a new professional environment,” says Shemakov, a first-generation college student who came to Swarthmore through the QuestBridge program.
“I’m most excited about the potential to expand my political imagination beyond the myopia of the United States and Eastern Europe,” he says.
The Henry Luce Foundation introduced the scholarship in 1974 to enhance understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society. The program provides stipends, language training, and individualized professional placement in Asia.
Shemakov is still arranging his placement, but he hopes to experience the intergovernmental functions of Taiwan’s development agencies.
Although the global COVID-19 pandemic creates uncertainty, Shemakov lauds the efforts of the Luce Foundation and its partner, the Asia Foundation, to minimize any disruptions for current and incoming Luce Scholars; most of the current scholars have been able to remain in Asia, he says.
“Luckily, Taiwan has become a case study in how swift action and widespread health care can successfully prevent an outbreak,” says Shemakov, a Rubin Scholar, SwatTank finalist, and chair of the student budgeting committee, among other accomplishments at Swarthmore. “So, I am remaining optimistic.”