James Rizzo

Young Alum Wins New Scholarship for Study in China

Photo of James Rizzo sitting on a bench with fingers on laptop

James Rizzo ’15

Jan. 11, 2016 — If you've already earned a pilot's license, a black belt in kung fu, an undergraduate degree from UC Davis and a great spot in the tech industry, what's next?James Rizzo, 22 (B.A., Political Science, '15), has answered by winning a prestigious new scholarship for a year's graduate study in Beijing at one of China's leading universities.Rizzo, who grew up in Burbank and now lives in San Francisco, is one of the 111 members of the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars selected from more than 3,000 applicants worldwide."Living and studying with the other scholars is going to be an amazing experience," says Rizzo, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from UC Davis in June 2015. "It is an immense opportunity and an immense responsibility."

Study, internship and travel

Stephen A. Schwarzman, philanthropist and founder of the Blackstone investment firm, established the scholarship program to develop global leaders with an understanding of China. The award covers study at Tsinghua University—ranked 25th among the world's universities by QS World University Rankings—and all expenses for the year including travel, tuition, room and board, and a personal stipend.Rizzo and other scholars from 32 countries and 71 universities were selected for their proven intellectual and academic ability, leadership potential, strength of character and other factors.Beginning in September 2016, the scholars will pursue master's degrees in global affairs and participate in internships and intensive travel seminars. Rizzo will work toward a degree with an emphasis in public policy.

Developing his career

An associate in an early career leadership program at software firm Intuit, Rizzo is considering developing a career in strategy consulting for the public sector. Before graduating from UC Davis, he was looking for a fellowship to continue his studies.The Schwarzman program piqued his interest because of its focus on China. "China has become a superpower," he says. "It's a leader in global trends."The son of two professional musicians, Rizzo's desire to fly helped foster his skills in technology. A pilot "licensed to terrify" his parents before he graduated from high school, Rizzo says the first thing he loaded on his first computer at age 9 was flight simulation software.

UC Davis studies

Rizzo's experience at UC Davis—especially a great sociology class in his first quarter—helped him spread his wings and learn he wanted to pursue political science.During his studies, he helped lead policy advocacy on UC systemwide issues for the Associated Students of UC Davis, did two internships with Intuit, managed three computer centers for student residents, and served as president of the Davis chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.A Spanish minor, Rizzo spent the final months of his undergraduate studies in Spain. His travels have included other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.What's ahead? Not next but maybe later, Rizzo says, just maybe … serving as a policy adviser to the president of the United States.The Undergraduate and Prestigious Scholarships Office at UC Davis assists high-achieving students to apply for 25 of the most prestigious national and international scholarships.


— Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News Service