Hunter alum wins Luce fellowship

Hunter alum Kiryl Puchyk was recently honored with the Luce Award, a nationally competitive fellowship that will allow him to live and work in South Korea for a year, studying artificial intelligence.

The fellowship, which is awarded to 15 to 18 people each year by the Henry Luce Foundation to “enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.” Puchyk decided to use his Luce year working alongside a tech startup in Seoul, hoping to further his knowledge of Asian machine learning technology.

Puchyk, who graduated in 2016, is currently a senior domain expert at the global information-discovery company Dataminr in New York. He came from Belarus at 20 years old and settled in Brooklyn, enrolling at Hunter in 2014.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science, summa cum laude, Puchyk continued his studies at University of Chicago and received a master’s degree in international relations. Throughout his years of schooling, Puchyk became interested in Asian foreign affairs. When the young scholar learned about the Luce Award, a fellowship designed specifically for graduating students and young professionals with limited exposure to Asia, Puchyk knew this was something he wanted to be a part of.

“Hunter College played a very important role in my decision to apply for the Luce,” Puchyk said. “Being a strong academic institution, Hunter is also a very diverse school. As an immigrant, I always felt comfortable and welcomed there. My time at Hunter helped me get adjusted to the United States and prepared me for future challenges, such as living and working in Asia, for example.”

The Luce selection process takes place over a four-month period and begins by submitting an application to a designated university official. After the first round of interviews, 45 final candidates are selected. A second round of interviews are then conducted at a much higher intensity level and each Luce scholar is required to complete seven 30-minute conversations with Luce representatives. Luce interviews focus on the candidates’ personal lives rather than their academic experiences.

The Luce Scholars Program begins with a two-month intensive language training course and continues with individualized sessions with an organization or company coinciding with the scholar’s subject area.

Puchyk has a history with artificial intelligence. He began working at an American startup a couple years ago, but he wants to investigate how Asian companies approach the topic.

“During my studies as an international relations student, I was always fascinated by how new technology can affect the world,” he said. “For example, the invention of the machine gun and aerial bombing completely changed the nature of war. I believe that artificial intelligence will have an impact of similar magnitude in the security realm and beyond.”

Puchyk said more Hunter students should take advantage of the school’s offerings, and most of all, should be confident that they can compete with students from the best of colleges and universities.

“I would recommend Hunter students be proactive and use all the resources available at school, while also conducting research on their own, to find available fellowships and scholarships,” he said. “I strongly believe that there are plenty of opportunities out there, but it’s critically important to identify which ones fit your needs. Also, apply, even if it seems like there is no chance of getting a particular award. We tend to be stronger and much more prepared than we think.”

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