Q&A with Schwarzman Scholar William Peracchio

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William Peracchio is one of 154 scholars who has been awarded the Schwarzman Scholarship. Through the scholarship, Peracchio will spend the 2022 academic year in Beijing working toward a masters in global affairs.

The Schwarzman Scholarship is one of the world’s most distinguished graduate fellowships. William Peracchio, ‘21, is a computer science and business major and was selected as one of the 154 scholars from a pool of 3,600 applicants. Located at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, the Schwarzman Scholarship is a one-year-long master’s program focused on global affairs. The incoming class of 2022 includes students from 39 countries and 99 universities. Peracchio’s future classmates include a scholar whose medical equipment company aims to improve the efficacy and affordability of coronary artery bypass surgery, an Amazon best-selling author, an award-winning Chinese film producer, Australia’s youngest deputy mayor and several others who have been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30.

Q: What prompted you to apply for the scholarship?

WP: I was contacted by Bill Hunter in the Office of Fellowship Advising about a number of fellowships … and then I found Schwarzman, which has a big focus on leadership as opposed to research, which I think is a really cool distinction among other scholarships and other fellowships in the world.

Q: What was your interview process like?

WP: It was a written application, and after the written application there was a finalist notification. I think from the 3,600 applicants, 400 got selected as finalists and then there were global interview days across the world. I think it was Singapore, London, New York, which is the one I was in, and then Paolo Alto. So people interviewed there, it was just one quick interview and that was kind of it. Then it was just a long waiting game. 

Q: What are you currently studying at Lehigh?

WP: I’m completing my undergraduate degree right now. I’m a computer science and business major with minors in data science, economics, entrepreneurship and a certificate in global citizenship. I’m also dual-completing my master’s in computer science, so I’m getting that in May. It’s been a lot, it’s looking like either 199 or 200 credits.

Q: The scholarship works toward a master’s in global affairs. What made you want to learn more about the topic? Are you interested in pursuing a career in that field?

WP: The global affairs end is more kind of a lens. I’m probably not going to be doing diplomacy or anything like that, but for leading in a global organization at some point later on in my career, having that background, that’s definitely something that would be interesting and I know would be helpful.

Q: How does the program differ from a typical master’s degree?

WP: A lot of it is classes, so it’s all kinds of different things about China’s process in modernization, international business, leadership –– a lot of leadership specific courses. The program has a big focus on travel around China and really trying to do other experiential things. There’s also a research component in terms of a research paper in your area of expertise in whatever field. Everybody lives in the same building so it’s a lot of trying to facilitate interactions between the scholars and learning from each other within the cohort. 

Q: How has the program been impacted by COVID-19?

WP: This year’s cohort is remote thus far, but next year the plans are completely in person so we’ll kind of see how that goes. Obviously it’s a changing situation, but I’m optimistic with the vaccine. The program would start mid-August to May or June of the next year so, if I’m doing my math right, I’ll be able to see the Winter Olympics in Beijing which will be really cool since the school is in Beijing. 

Q: What are you most excited about going forward with this program?

WP: I think really the cohort. Just skimming through the bios of all the people, they’re incredible people so really just learning from all of them in a tight-knit, close community. 

Q: Do you have a dream job in mind?

WP: Long term, probably a (chief technology officer) of a large internet company. In the more immediate term, probably technical consulting or software engineering. So still a heavy technical background but a lot of application.

Q: Do you feel that Lehigh has prepared you for this kind of program and being in this kind of environment?

WP: Yes. I don’t know if anything can really really prepare me, but I definitely think that Lehigh prepared me as well as it could have for an opportunity such as this. I’m just thinking about how Lehigh has forced me to really learn inside and outside the classroom, which I feel like has really been the big differentiator and thing that I look to really grow upon for next year.

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