Congratulations to Jasper Boers '22 Schwarzman Scholar Winner
We are delighted to share with you that one of our longtime student leaders, Jasper Boers ’22, was recently selected as a Schwarzman Scholar. We congratulate Jasper on this exciting news. Earlier this month, Jasper spoke with us about his future plans and reflected on his experience with the Buckley Program.
Interview with Jasper Boers ’22
Lauren: Congratulations on this prestigious award, Jasper. I’m really excited for you. Tell me about the Schwarzman Scholars Program.
Jasper: It was founded about seven years ago. I’ll be in what’s called the seventh cohort. Each cohort is about 150, 160 students from around the world. So it’s about 40% Americans, 40% foreigners from other countries except for China, and then 20% from China, Macau, and Hong Kong. The idea of the interview process is current leaders picking future leaders. And so the idea is bringing together all of these young people in the cohort, they’ll all learn about China, they all learn about China’s place in the world, US-China dynamics, and in that respect, then you go out into your careers and then hopefully take the knowledge and the network that you’ve gained there with you. So that’s the mission of the program. Why it appealed to me over other fellowships, I’d say mostly because of the cohort. A lot of other fellowships, you just get money and you go study at a foreign university by yourself. And to me that just wasn’t attractive. And I think what I’ve gained so much from Buckley is the network of fellows here that we have, and trying to seek that out in a graduate program is what is really appealing to me about Schwarzman.
Lauren: This sounds like a great opportunity for you. What are you hoping to study and how does it fit into your future plans?
Jasper: I’ve spent a lot of time with Grand Strategy and Buckley events, and also through internships and that kind of thing, studying American foreign policy. But I think you can’t really be prepared to necessarily work in that field without also understanding what your adversaries or what your rivals are thinking. I would love to get a chance to speak with more people who work in, let’s say, they work in a Communist Party, or they work in the Chinese government, the foreign ministry, doing that sort of work, I think that’s an incredibly exciting opportunity that, frankly, less and less Americans are going to get to have in the next couple of years. So if I can get that out of the year that I spend in China and then bring it back to the United States to work here, that’s really what I’m hoping to learn most.
Lauren: You mentioned the emphasis on leadership in the Schwarzman Scholars Program. You’ve certainly been a leader on Yale’s campus as student president of the Buckley Program. And you’ve been active in the Buckley Program throughout your entire time at Yale, even before your first semester. I remember you coming to an event during Bulldog Days, I think, right?
Jasper: Yeah. Pretty much every single event.
Lauren: What inspired your involvement in the Buckley Program, and what’s kept you so engaged with the organization over the past few years?
Jasper: I think it was initially that I had friends who were in Buckley who pretty much gave it the highest recommendation that they could to me. And I think that says a lot, especially to an impressionable young freshman as I was. What’s kept me coming around is mostly seeing the enthusiasm of people who are younger than me for intellectual diversity or the kinds of speakers that we bring in. So every time I’m at a dinner seminar with Buckley or I’m at an event, it really strikes me just how excited people are to be there. And in a way, how excited they are to get out of the classroom and get an opportunity to engage with a professor or a think tank expert or a policy maker in a more informal setting, in a more intimate setting where they really get to pick their brain and ask them whatever questions that come to mind.
I’ve gained a lot from Buckley. I’ve certainly learned a lot. I have definitely made new connections, have gotten internships and jobs, and have made professional connections and personal connections. But really what keeps me around is seeing how my work in the Program has elevated its position on campus and also just made it more attractive to younger students.
Lauren: Wonderful. What have been some of the highlights for you? You’ve moderated a lot of events over the past couple of years, interviewing many prominent guests and facilitating a variety of important conversations. Have you had any favorites?
Jasper: I think my personal favorite, especially from this past year during COVID when we had everything online, was probably Bari Weiss. It was definitely one of the Buckley events where I felt the most at ease with talking to a guest. And I thought the conversation just explored so many different areas. We talked about the future of journalism in the world of Substack and how more and more established journalists are leaving their positions at legacy newspapers and legacy news outlets. We talked about the future of the right more generally, what it’s like to build new institutions as many on the right are doing today. And I think her experience personally stood out to me as unique, because a lot of the people we bring in for Buckley have a big institution, a big name attached to them…She’s pretty much on her own now…She’s her own boss. And I think that’s something that we should try to cultivate more of, that entrepreneurial or independent mindset. So it was great to get to talk with her at a more personal level.
Lauren: Why do you think the mission of the Buckley program is so important on campus? What’s been your experience with the campus intellectual climate?
Jasper: I think the biggest challenge that I’ve seen Yale face in the past four years is this pretty astounding lack of leadership from the top down at Yale. And what I mean by that is that I don’t really see university leaders making clear statements about the function of the university, nor do I see them saying, “Okay, this is what Yale is for.” And when they don’t do that, they can’t articulate principles to build an academic life around. And where Yale has failed to do that, I think Buckley’s stepped in and put forward a really enduring set of principles, intellectual diversity, free speech, really rigorous, challenging cross-examinations that we do in our Firing Line debates. Those set the standard, I think, for what a lot of our fellows expect to get in their classes now. Now that the university isn’t really doing that, the fact that Buckley is, I think speaks to the strengths of the organization and also the strengths of the leadership of the organization.
Lauren: Can you tell me a little bit more about your long-term professional goals? What, if any, role has Buckley played in shaping those goals in some way?
Jasper: I really would like to work in foreign policy eventually. And where that takes me in the near term is more uncertain to me. I’ll use my year in China as a Schwarzman Scholar to really try to figure that out. I think I’m going to see Yale and Schwarzman, going to China as the same chapter in a book in a way. I missed a year at Yale of having in-person classes. And I think being in China, getting to take all of those in-person classes there will, in some ways, make up for that. In other ways, it’ll be a completely new thing for me. But I’m also hoping to use the connections and some of the people that I meet there to really get more of a handle on where I’m going next.
I’ve been able to meet lots of great mentors through the Buckley Program who have guided me in the right direction, I think, and who have given me great advice on where to stake my claim when it comes to wanting to work in foreign policy or defense policy. The events that we’ve had with foreign policy experts, with former ambassadors, with former state department officials, I’ve learned so much from them, and especially getting to learn more about how they built their careers has been really inspiring for me and also just gives me more data points for how I should think about planning my career. How should I make this decision? What questions should I be asking? Those are the things that Yale career services, they’re not going to tell you. And so the access that Buckley provides has been invaluable for me in that respect.
Lauren: Terrific. Outside of the Buckley Program, what other things have you been involved with on campus?
Jasper: Outside of the Buckley Program, the other initiative that I’m involved with is called the Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative. And we bring Yale and West Point students to the West Bank in Israel for a 10-day trip over spring break to see the conflicts and understand each other better. So civil and military relations is a big part of what we try to do…PDLI has been great for me in that it’s given me similar opportunities as Buckley has with more of a focus on civil military relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict. But other than that, I’ve been pretty dedicated to my classes. You can definitely still get a first rate education at Yale if you have a lot of initiative and you try to seek that out for yourself. A lot of people don’t do that, and that’s one of the reasons that I think Yale has a lot of ground to make up when it comes to really providing a good liberal arts education for all of its students. But I think with the programs I’ve been in, Directed Studies, Grand Strategy—those really do encourage students with initiative and drive to learn as much as they can in the span of four years.
Lauren: Regarding your comment about getting a first rate education and making the most out of one’s four years Yale, what advice would you give to a freshman or sophomore?
Jasper: I think the thing that’s always been the strength of the classes that I’ve taken that I’ve loved the most has been the professors. That’s something that I think a lot of people maybe ignore a little bit more when they look out for the subject matter that they’re wanting to take. But really, even if the class subject matter isn’t necessarily what you’re most interested in, sometimes just being able to sit in a room with that professor, in lecture hall, in a seminar room, that’s going to produce new insights for you in a way that you’re not going to get if you’re taking classes with a professor who’s maybe teaching something that’s interesting to you, but maybe the professor just isn’t the most articulate and isn’t going to resonate with you the same way that one that you’ve really enjoyed has. So I’d say really develop those relationships with your professors, and also try to prioritize those relationships in some respect over the subject matter they’re actually teaching in the classroom.
Lauren: You have just a little over a semester left at Yale. What are you looking forward to most in the next six months?
Jasper: Well, I’m going to have to write a senior essay, so I don’t know whether I’m looking forward to that or not. But I would love to just stay involved with Buckley, get to do all of the things that I’ve been doing for the past three years or so, but with the same level of responsibility as a first semester freshman. So I think that’s really what I’m looking forward to is being able to just take a last semester to enjoy Yale and all of the resources that it has to offer without any of the responsibilities or deadlines that come along with some of these great programs.