News Release

University of Minnesota graduate awarded international scholarship to study in China

Lilli Ambort
Lilli Ambort

Lilli Ambort, a global studies major from Davenport, Iowa, will begin graduate studies at Peking University in the fall as a Yenching Scholar. A December 2020 Honors graduate, Ambort began studying Chinese in high school and completed a minor in the language at the University of Minnesota. As a Yenching Scholar she will join a cohort of 90 students from 37 countries and 27 Chinese students to complete a Master’s Degree in China Studies with a concentration in Law and Society.

Ambort’s Global Studies major focused on political economy and environmental change, as well as, studying East Asia. She was able to pursue her interests in international environmental policy as a research assistant for Sociology professor Rachel Schurman, contributing to projects on pro-agricultural biotechnology and the Green Revolution in Africa. The Institute on the Environment selected her for its undergraduate leaders program, where she developed a campus initiative to promote textile recycling and clothing donation.

Her primary desire, however, was to study abroad in China and develop her fluency in Mandarin. In the summer of 2019, the Freeman Foundation awarded her a Freeman ASIA scholarship to study in China. Her experience in Beijing affirmed her love of Chinese language and culture and she began planning to return.

As a student in the University Honors Program, Ambort wrote her Honors thesis on the subject of climate change as a factor driving the migration of rural people to urban centers in China’s Loess Plateau. As a Yenching Scholar, she hopes to travel to this region and interview people to understand both their motivations and Chinese policy with respect to this expanding global issue of environmental displacement. After completing her studies, she hopes to continue working in Asia on matters of sustainability and environmental policy.

Ambort is the second student from the University of Minnesota to be awarded this scholarship.


Yenching Scholars are selected from around the world with about 30 coming from the United States. The goal of the program, which selected its first scholars in 2015 and was inspired by 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.  The Scholars are chosen for their outstanding academic records as well as community engagement, extracurricular achievement, leadership potential, and commitment to interdisciplinary study of China.

Students who are interested in applying to become Yenching Scholars must contact the Office of National and International Scholarships at [email protected].

Media Contacts

Main Line

University Public Relations

Timothy Jones

Honors Program, Twin Cities