Every year, undergraduate senior students in the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) are given the opportunity to participate in a unique academic experience. Founded in 1983 by Professor Emeritus Donald C. Hellmann, the JSIS Task Force Capstone has students work in teams to develop policy responses to current international problems. At the end of winter quarter, on ‘Task Force Day’, outside experts from across the globe evaluate the JSIS Task Forces’ policy recommendations.
Conducting research on fast-moving international issues and working together to meet tight deadlines, students in Task Force gain hands-on exposure to current public policy concerns, while working under similar pressures as in a ‘real world’ policy environment. During evaluation day, they are introduced to leading specialists in their field. Task Force also goes beyond academic investigations: many Task Force teams have provided research and recommendations that are used in decision-making by NGOs, advocacy communities, and governments.
Over 3,500 students have completed Task Force since 1983, producing more than 200 policy reports. Since last year, some European Studies majors are newly eligible to join Task Force. During Winter Quarter, Center for West European Studies Director Professor Sabine Lang led the European Studies Task Force Making European Citizens: Challenges to Solidarity Among EU Member States.
“One of the most pressing questions for the future of the European Union is how much solidarity Europeans are willing to show and to what degree they see themselves as Europeans,” reads the introduction to Professor Lang’s Task Force description. “Therefore, the ‘making’ of European citizens remains a central challenge for European integration.”
Prompted by the question of how to increase EU legitimacy and solidarity, the Task Force took a deep dive into eight of the hot topics that are impacting European solidarity today. These included educational exchange programs and Erasmus+, Europarties, the European Citizens’ Initiative, disinformation, migration, economic solidarity, unconditional basic income, and the impacts of Covid-19. With an assessment of the current legitimacy deficit in several institutional and policy-related arenas, the Task Force students drafted a 155-page report that resulted in fact-based policy recommendations on how to strengthen European citizenship.
Inside Task Force
The 2021 Europe-focused Task Force was comprised of International Studies and European Studies seniors Madison Rose Keiran, Lexi Kinzer, Esmé Lafi, Mahilet Mesfin, Olivia Nicolas, Juliet Rose Romano-Olsen, Addie Perkins, Evple Peng, Tommy Shi, and Erik Levi Stone. Students acted in various capacities on the team, enabling enhanced opportunities for teamwork and leadership.
Addie Perkins, describing the practical aspects of her responsibilities as Task Force editor, said, “Within the editing role, I focused my efforts on the writing of an introduction that contained comprehensive background to issues of EU solidarity as well as a summarizing conclusion, and also edited multiple drafts of each of the report’s chapters.”
Task Force Coordinator Lexi Kinzer added, “I particularly enjoyed working closely with the authors and the professor to make sure the limited time at our disposal was spent on the topics that made the most sense for us while not diminishing the authors’ creative process.” Students also remarked on the appreciation they had for being able to connect and virtually work with their fellow Jackson School peers, especially during a time of continued pandemic isolation.
Task Force Speaker Erik Levi Stone pointed out the importance of the program in giving students the opportunity to focus on relevant issues. “It was amazing to work on something that could have real impact. I could see directly how the things I was researching and writing about could be turned into real-world solutions, and then the opportunity to present and discuss my work with someone in the field solidified the real influence Task Force has.”
Leadership of a new generation
On March 12, the ten members of the Europe Task Force presented results of their report to Conny Reuter, Global Coordinator of the Progressive Alliance, a network of 140 progressive parties and organizations around the world. Reuter is based in Brussels and Berlin. During his time as former Secretary-General of the EU NGO network SOLIDAR, Reuter also served as Co-Chair of Liaison Group of the European Economic and Social Committees, President of Social Platform, Co-founder and Board member of Social Service Europe, Co-founder of Civil Society Europe, and Member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Workers Education Associations. He has extended experience in NGO networking, managing EU and international projects and specializes in social policies, migration and integration, education and global justice issues.
During the two-hour evaluation, students presented and discussed their policy recommendations with Reuter. “The students have shown an excellent understanding of the European challenges,” said Reuter, which “gives me trust and confidence in a new generation carrying the U.S.-European cooperation which is so much needed for global leadership in democracy and civic participation.”
The dedication and growth of the students in this year’s Europe Task Force confirmed the importance of the opportunity, and the Center for West European Studies is looking forward to next year. Task Force Editor Addie Perkins summarizes the success of the program; “I have had an incredible experience and only wish that all students at the UW could participate in such an amazing capstone!”
The Task Force Program is offered and organized by the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.