News Release

U of M Twin Cities alum awarded international scholarship to study in China

Sophia Dooley

Sophia Dooly, who graduated from the University of Minnesota in May with majors in History and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Chinese), has been selected as a 2020 Yenching Scholar. She is the first University of Minnesota student to receive this prestigious international award.

Yenching Scholars, selected for the first time in 2016, spend a year completing a Master’s degree in China Studies while in residence at Yenching Academy of Peking University. The roughly 125 scholars are selected from around the world with about 25 coming from the United States. The goal of the program, inspired by Chinese Shūyuàn, classical academies, and the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, is to build knowledge of and experience with China and Chinese culture among young people who will become leaders across a range of professions and academic disciplines. Scholars are chosen for their outstanding academic records as well as community engagement, extracurricular achievement, leadership potential, and commitment to interdisciplinary study of China.

Sophia, who grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota, was a member of the Chinese Flagship Program at the University of Minnesota. In her first year at the University, she received a Dean’s Creative Scholars award from the College of Liberal Arts that allowed her to conduct research with Professor Christine Murran on Mari Tomasawa, the owner of a family sake brewery in Japan. Over the course of the project, Sophia learned to employ a variety of historical materials to explore the role women have played in the brewing industry of over hundreds of years.

Alongside History Professor Ann Waltner, who describes her as “enthusiastic, energetic and passionate student of Chinese history,” Sophia has conducted two original research projects. The first was an investigation of the lives of palace maids during the Qing and Ming dynasties. This included the study of primary materials in the First Historical Archives of China (中国第一历史档案馆) next to the National Palace Museum in Beijing, which was supported by a Hedley Donovan Scholarship from the History department during the summer after her junior year. When she returned, she presented her research at the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs. In her senior year, supported by a UROP grant, she teamed up again with Professor Waltner to investigate the historical background of the “Bridal Procession” artifacts in the Asian collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

For her capstone in the Flagship program, Sophia studied abroad in Nanjing with the American Councils for International Education Capstone Year. Although she was forced to return early due to COVID-19, she was able to spend the fall semester developing advanced language skills as well as taking classes in Chinese arts and archaeology. At Yenching Academy, Sophia will complete a History and Archaeology concentration for her degree, and after completing her studies in China, she plans to enroll in a doctoral program in Chinese History with a focus on museum studies.

Students or alumni who are interested in the Yenching Scholars program should contact Timothy Jones in the Office of National and International Scholarships about the application process. As a partner university of the Yenching program, the University of Minnesota conducts an initial evaluation of candidates before the national application deadline. More information is available on the ONIS website (, or by emailing

Media Contacts

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Timothy Jones

Honors Program, Twin Cities
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 15:42
U of M Twin Cities alum awarded international scholarship to study in China
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities