FLAS recipient Darius Izad graduated in 2018 with a J.D. from the UW School of Law. Darius is currently a Captain and Attorney in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. He sat down with the EAC for a virtual interview in late 2020.
Can you expand on your experience learning Chinese as an East Asia Center FLAS fellow? When were you a fellow? What year(s) of Chinese did you study?
The Chinese language program at the University of Washington provided an outstanding opportunity to reinforce and improve my Mandarin. I served as an East Asia Center FLAS fellow from 2017-2018 and took fourth-year Mandarin classes. I was thoroughly impressed by the high standards set by the instructors and the quality of my classmates. The FLAS fellowship was particularly helpful to me because as a law student I had not studied Mandarin in a formal setting for several years prior to the fellowship. Given the high caliber of both the instructors and students at the University of Washington, I quickly recovered from any previous regression and felt the most confident in my Mandarin compared to any other point in my life.
Please tell us a little more about your current position at the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps, and how FLAS has translated to your professional career.
I currently serve as a Captain and an attorney in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. In my short career so far, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a trial counsel representing the Government in several sexual assault and domestic violence cases. I have also deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where I helped provide legal support to the Military Commissions prosecution and defense teams. As an attorney, it is extremely difficult to utilize foreign language skills on the day-to-day job. The U.S. Air Force, however, provides me with one on one Chinese language classes throughout the year. I will also have the opportunity to participate in month-long immersion program in Taiwan, where I’ll stay with a homestay family and take classes to improve my Mandarin and cultural competency in a DoD (Department of Defense) setting amongst other Air Force service-members. If not for FLAS, I would have been much less equipped to study Mandarin through the Air Force, and my language regression would have been far worse. I’d encourage any FLAS fellow or foreign language student at the University of Washington to seriously consider careers in the federal government, given the opportunities of continual foreign language study.
Did FLAS provide experiences during your time as a student that you would otherwise not have had?
One of the most valuable aspects of FLAS was the opportunity to write papers specific to the regional area of the fellowship. As a law student, I had to find ways to tie China-related topics to courses that I was taking. This gave me a chance to see my courses through a different lens that I would have otherwise considered. For example, I took an Advanced Islamic Law course with Professor Clark Lombardi, where I wrote a final paper that outlined the different Muslim communities in China and gave a history of the Chinese Government’s disparate treatment of the Uyghur community as compared to the Hui community. This ended up being a timely paper, and has informed my understanding of the events that continue in China.
As a law student, being able to take Mandarin classes several times a week was also a much needed reprieve from the stressful law school environment. I actually decided to attend the University of Washington School of Law specifically for the opportunity of earning a FLAS fellowship. As a global University, following the law school’s motto of, “for the global common good,” I hope that students have increased opportunities to pursue FLAS fellowships.
What’s next for you, and do you see your language study providing continued benefit in the future?
I hope to continue serving as an Officer and attorney in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. I do, however, want to pivot to a position within the United States Government that is specific to East Asia law and policy. I treat language study as a lifelong venture, and am happy to say that I am continuing to build upon the terrific foundation I have gained at Hamilton College’s Chinese program, my graduate studies at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and my professional coursework at the University of Washington School of Law and Jackson School of International Studies.