Smith alum selected for 2019 class of Schwarzman Scholars

Posted on December 14, 2017

Heather Evans, BCom'16, at the G7 Youth Summit in Rome.
Heather Evans, BCom'16, at the G7 Youth Summit in Rome.

Kingston, ON — Heather Evans, BCom’16, was standing in her parents' kitchen in Kingston last month when she found out she’d been named to the Schwarzman Scholars program. 

The timing couldn’t have been better. Heather, who works for the Ontario government in Toronto, was in town to speak the next day on a Women in Tech panel, hosted by the Queen’s Startup Summit.

“Goodes Hall was home to me for four years, and there was nothing better than getting to share the news of this exciting opportunity in person with people who really helped me,” Heather says, referring to Smith professors and staff.

Heather is one of 142 people worldwide, selected from over 4,000 applications, to attend the master’s degree program at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, in Beijing.

Inspired by the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, the Schwarzman Scholars program aims to prepare future leaders for a world in which an understanding of China’s role in global trends is essential.

Heather first learned about Schwarzman during her fourth year in Queen’s Commerce. She even thought of applying, but held off to pursue other opportunities that might make her a stronger candidate later on.

Initially, Heather wanted to go into foreign affairs. But she developed an interest in startups as a participant in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI). She and teammates Chris Labelle, BCom’14, Derek Vogt, Sc’14, Mitchell Debora, Sc’14, and Danny Lloyd, Sc’16, launched Mosaic Manufacturing, winner of the 2014 QICSI Pitch Competition.

Her second venture was Spreza, a speech transcription software technology. It launched as part of The Next 36, a Canadian entrepreneurial leadership program. “When I was accepted into The Next 36 it made sense for me to really try and push myself and see what I could do with startups,” Heather explains.

But a year ago Spreza went open source, and within days Heather accepted a contract position with the Ontario government in the Disruptive Technologies Unit of the Research Science and Strategy Division.

“I joke that one of the worst weeks of my life turned into the best possible opportunity,” she says. Today she’s Senior Advisor of Advanced Technologies with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth.

Heather says her experience working for the government, particularly leading the Canadian delegation to the G7 Youth Summit in Rome earlier this year, inspired her to look again at the Schwarzman Scholar program.

“I don’t know what I want to do with my career still, but China’s economy is growing faster than any other country in the world. I think it would be a really big missed opportunity if I didn’t invest time now in understanding a little bit more of what’s going on and building some relationships there.”

At Schwarzman, Heather’s studies will include a one-year Master of Global Affairs with concentration in one of three disciplines: public policy, economics and business or international studies. She’ll also get first-hand experiences — internships, mentoring, extensive travel and networking — to learn about China and its role in the world. She’ll be joined by students from 39 countries and 97 universities. The class of 2019 starts next August.

“The opportunity to live with people who have such different experiences than my own is really exciting,” Heather says. “It’s a big, diverse mix, so I’m really excited to live with them, to learn from them and with them, and to travel China with them.”