This week, we are featuring our new PhD student Bernard Loesi, who is currently serving as an official at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Office of the Directorate General of American and European Affairs.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international Relations from Jayabaya University (in Jakarta) in 2000. After graduating, I worked as a journalist for a local magazine, the Indonesia Shipping Gazette. Since 2002, I have been an employee of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The employees, including myself, must undergo rotations every three to four years, moving from one country to another due to my position. I have been stationed in several countries including Singapore, Philippines, and the United States.
When I was stationed in the Philippines in 2009, I pursued a master’s degree in Public Administration, focusing on ASEAN communities. In 2016, when I was working for the Consulate General in San Francisco, I made up my mind to pursue a PhD in International Studies at the University of Washington.
What is your research interest?
I have several areas that I would like to research. One of them is United States policy in Southeast Asian countries where violent extremism is prominent. This interest is tied to Indonesia’s current climate in which radicalism is a big issue.
More broadly, I want to implement the knowledge I’m obtaining from the Jackson School to solve real world problems. I’m hopeful that all the theories I’m learning in my study can be integrated into real, contemporary cases.
What made you decide to pursue a doctoral degree at UW?
Having been a public servant for several years, I know there is more to learn in my field. I researched several universities that I deemed could satisfy my desire for knowledge.
I was initially considering UC Berkeley since I knew a faculty member that focuses specifically on Indonesia.
Eventually, I chose UW because of the reputation of its international studies program. I am also quite familiar with this campus since I helped organize several events with people from JSIS in 2015 and 2016.
Based on your experience of serving in different countries, what is the most common challenge encountered by Indonesians who are living abroad?
A common issue with Indonesians who are living abroad is that they do not report to the consulate. This typically made it difficult if they encountered a problem with local government.
Personally, I like the challenge of building bilateral relations between Indonesia and other countries. Thus, I always feel encouraged to foster the relationship from any perspective such as socio-cultural, educational, economic, and even from a security perspective.
Have you had any awkward moments during your tenure as a public servant for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
I encountered an awkward moment when the President of Indonesia visited Silicon Valley a couple of years back. During his visit, we arranged several meetings at local enterprises in the area. The meetings went smoothly, perhaps too smoothly. We were ahead of our schedule and decided to move to our next destination without knowing that the CEO of the company was not ready to meet us. Thus, when we arrived, nobody at the office was able to attend to us. A staff member let us know that the CEO wouldn’t be available to meet for another 45 minutes. Fortunately, an executive offered us a tour of the offices until the CEO was ready.