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ART Institute graduate from China named a Rhodes scholar

Yan ChenCourtesy Rhodes China, Yang Zhang

A student from China who immersed herself in Boston’s theater community after enrolling at Harvard’s ART Institute is one of her country’s four Rhodes scholars for 2019, and the first, she says, to major in the arts. Yan Chen, 23, told the Globe that interviewing for the scholarship in China was the best part of the process.

“When I was able to really talk about why I chose the path I’m on right now, why I believe in it, why I think theater is important, and be able to advocate for theater in front of a panel of nine judges was incredibly exciting for me,” Chen says.


Born and raised in China, where she received her BA in English from Nanjing University, Chen came to the US to study dramaturgy and theater at the ART Institute. While here, she worked on a variety of productions as a dramaturg, as well as productions based in Shanghai and Moscow, and earned her master’s degree. “Boston has so many universities and academic institutions, and there are so many people who are practicing theater professionals also teaching at those institutions,” Chen says. “I think there’s a very healthy dialogue between theater as education and theater as practice in the city.”

She is currently working as an assistant dramaturg at Hartford Stage in Connecticut, where one of her Boston mentors, Melia Bensussen, was named artistic director this month. With her scholarship, Chen plans to study comparative literature at Oxford University.

“Fundamentally, theater cultivates empathy and understanding and collaboration,” Chen says. “And having an international perspective really adds to our idea of what it means to be inclusive and diverse.”

Lillian Brown can be reached at lillian.brown@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lilliangbrown.