Williams is UNC’s 17th Marshall Scholar, will study for two years in the United Kingdom

James Williams
James Williams

James Williams, a fourth-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship, a graduate studies scholarship to study at a United Kingdom institution in any field of study.

Williams is one of 40 Americans selected today for the one and two year awards, which provide university fees, cost of living expenses, annual book grants, thesis grant, research and daily travel grants and fares to and from the United States. He is Carolina’s 17th Marshall Scholar, and was one of only 32 recipients of the two-year Marshall award. Carolina’s 16th Marshall recipient was Wesley “Jud” Campbell, who was named in fall 2005.

“It hasn’t fully sunk in yet — the magnitude of the fact that I’ll be living in England for two years, the fact that I’ll be able to freely study the things that I’m interested in and be a part of this network of really impressive scholars,” said Williams. “I’m sure it will sink in over the coming weeks and it will bring a huge sense of relief, as well as gratitude. I have always been the type to shoot for the stars and landing a competitive scholarship like this is even more than I imagined.”

Williams, 21, is the son of Scott Williams and Elisabeth Williams, and is from North Andover, Massachusetts. He is a 2012 graduate of Brooks School and plans to graduate from Carolina this May with a double major in economics and Asian studies with a Chinese concentration and a minor in mathematical decision sciences, all based in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“It’s wonderful to see James Williams recognized with the exceptional Marshall Scholarship,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Few students display the energy and self-discipline that has propelled James in his study of economics and China. I look forward to following his incredibly bright future as a bold leader in U.S.-China relations.”

A Morehead-Cain Scholar with a 4.0 GPA, Williams is also a Phi Beta Kappa member and a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Carolina’s oldest honorary society. As an Honors Carolina student, he is currently writing his senior honors thesis in the Asian Studies department. He is also a recipient of Carolina’s Phillips Ambassador Scholarship.

In his junior year, Williams was the director of the Duke-UNC China-Leadership Summit, the South’s largest conference on U.S.-China relations. He is currently the president of the Carolina [UNC] China Network, which coordinates China-related student groups and facilitates on-campus lectures and cultural events. He also captains Carolina’s “Fed Challenge Team,” which competes in national competitions about monetary policy hosted by the Federal Reserve. The team was named a national finalist in 2014 and will compete again in the national finals this December.

Williams began his study of Mandarin Chinese in ninth-grade and has since spent a total of one year studying, volunteering and working in China, including volunteering as an English teacher at Huaguang Girls Charity High School, a school for impoverished girls from rural areas. Later in his sophomore year, following an immersion program at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, he was awarded the highest level of language certification (HSK 6) by the government of China. Last spring, he even won a national Mandarin public speaking and talent competition in which he delivered an original stand-up comedy routine in Mandarin.

Since 2013, Williams has been assisting UNC-Chapel Hill professor Margaret Lee in the research for her forthcoming book, “Africa’s Trade Regimes: Globalization from Above.” While working with Lee, he spent four weeks in Africa conducting interviews with leaders throughout the region, including the Vice President of Ghana. He later prepared and taught a course entitled “China and Africa: Perspectives on a Dynamic South-South Partnership” at Carolina and was also invited by the China-Africa Project to deliver a podcast to over a quarter of a million followers on the topic of U.S.-Sino-Africa relations.

While in England, Williams plans to pursue an MSc in contemporary China studies at SOAS, University of London and an MSc in developmental economics at Oxford. Professionally, he aspires to be on the front lines of shaping U.S. foreign policy toward China.

“James is one of the most accomplished students I have ever encountered at Carolina, and I am certain he will play an important role in future U.S.-China-Africa relations, “ said Mary Floyd-Wilson, director of Carolina’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships. “The Marshall Scholarship will allow James to further his studies in economics and contemporary Chinese studies. A remarkable scholar and leader, James exemplifies the ambassadorial goals of the Marshall Scholarship.”

The Marshall Scholarships were founded in 1953 and finance the opportunity for young Americans of outstanding ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom. Approximately 40 Marshall Scholarships are awarded annually and cover study in any discipline at graduate level at an UK university: up to 32 recipients can receive the two-year award, and up to eight recipients can receive the one-year award.

The Marshall Scholarships honor the ideals of the Marshall Plan and are named after US Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Applicants who “have the potential to excel as scholars, leaders, and contributors to improved UK-US understanding” are highly desired by Marshall Scholarships selectors.

Learn more about the Marshall Scholarships here.

Learn more from the Office of Distinguished Scholarships (ODS).