Plans to leverage time in Asia to help disadvantaged populations

ANN ARBOR, MICH., March 20, 2012–Chris McLaurin knows that in life, just as in sports, success is fueled by hard work, determination, and most importantly, passion.

The 25-year-old University of Michigan alumnus and former tight end for the Wolverines’ football team was recently awarded a prestigious Luce fellowship to live and work in Asia for a year. The competitive fellowship, awarded annually to just 18 individuals nationwide, aims to enhance understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.

“The cultural and intellectual exposure I stood to gain from a professional placement in Asia attracted me to the program,” says McLaurin. “As a Luce Scholar, I hope to build on my experience in social policy and law and gain exposure to leaders who are dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged populations in their corner of the world.”

The Luce Scholars Program provides a stipend, language training, and individualized professional placement. It is unique among American-Asian exchanges in that it is intended for young leaders who have limited academic and international experience related to Asia and may not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in an Asian-immersion experience.

Successful candidates are selected on the basis of their high achievement record, outstanding leadership ability, clearly defined interests, and evidence of potential for professional accomplishments. For McLaurin, the list of achievements is already a long one.

Originally from Rochester Hills, Mich., he received a scholarship to play football for U-M in fall 2005. During his time on campus, he founded an organization to provide youth in residential group homes with positive student role models from the university. His passion for mentorship stemmed from the role mentors had played in his own life following the death of his father when McLaurin was just 15.

“After losing my best mentor, my father, mentorship became a crucial piece in my development,” says McLaurin.

The program’s success earned him the Martin Luther King Central Campus Spirit Award in 2008.

Following graduation, he continued to work with marginalized communities on a Fulbright U.S. Student scholarship in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he developed a mentorship program with non-governmental organization Tomorrow Trust, supporting the self-sustainability of orphaned and vulnerable children. He also contributed to a case study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme and Harvard Law School on the potential for litigation to promote the economic rights of the poor.

“My experiences in different parts of the world have cultivated the conviction to help resolve the issues I feel most passionate about and feel capable of changing,” says McLaurin. “It has left me rich with testimony for the need to better address the issues affecting families and children from low-income backgrounds through social policy.”

After his Fulbright year, McLaurin went on to pursue a master’s in social policy and planning at the London School of Economics. In London, he worked as a parliamentary intern with Labour MP Toby Perkins in the House of Commons and as a public affairs intern and researcher for the Runnymede Trust, the United Kingdom’s leading independent race and ethnicity think tank.

Most recently, McLaurin interned for the White House Domestic Policy Council, where he worked on issues of workforce development, poverty alleviation, child nutrition, and civil rights under Racquel Russell, special assistant to the president for mobility and opportunity.

The Luce Foundation will confirm the location of McLaurin’s placement in Asia in May. The organization arranges placements tailored to each scholar’s professional interests, background, and qualifications. Placements combine cultural immersion and professional enrichment to facilitate a broader understanding and appreciation of the host culture.

McClaurin credits the International Institute, which administers the Luce Scholars Program at U-M, as an important factor in his selection.

“The International Institute was crucial to my acceptance into the Luce Scholars class of 2012,” says McLaurin. “They not only answered any question I had about the application process, but also gave me critical application advice and introduced me to past Luce Scholars.”

“We are very proud of Chris and his accomplishments,” says Ken Kollman, International Institute director. “He has shown a commitment to expand opportunities for marginalized communities through his work in law and social policy. His qualities exemplify what we see in many of our graduates from U-M.”

McLaurin plans to attend law school following his year abroad as a Luce Scholar.

Luce Scholar candidates are nominated by 75 U.S. colleges and universities. Finalists complete two rounds of rigorous one-on-one interviews. College seniors, graduate students, and young professionals in a variety of fields, including but not limited to the arts, journalism, law, medicine, science, public health, environmental studies, and international relations may apply for the Luce Scholars Program. For more information, visit

University of Michigan International Institute
The University of Michigan International Institute houses 18 centers and programs focused on world regions and global themes. The institute develops and supports international teaching, research, and public affairs programs to promote global understanding across the campus and to build connections with intellectuals and institutions worldwide. For more information, visit