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Meet Brennan Chang, Hellmann Scholar 2023-24

May 28, 2024

In this Q&A, we speak with Brennan Chang, a senior majoring in International Studies (General), who was selected as a 2023-2024 recipient of the Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholarship award. 

Unique to the Jackson School, the award provides a $5,000 stipend to support the education and training of a Jackson School undergraduate major with demonstrated excellence in international studies, clear interest in a career in international affairs, and with a strong and creative commitment to promoting the international public good.

Brennan Chang

Brennan Chang ’24

Name: Brennan Chang
Degree: International Studies (General), Japanese, minoring in Linguistics, East Asian Languages & Cultures
Expected to graduate in: June 2024
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

How did you choose UW?
Growing up in Seattle, I already had numerous connections with UW. I had taken classes in high school connected to the university, engaged in events hosted by UW, such as the Washington State Model United Nations, and was in conversation with professors and academic staff on subjects I was just about peaking interest in. Additionally, I knew that many of my closest friends engaged in research and maintained similar strong connections with the opportunities here. Not only is UW close to home, but, as one strength I discovered in my time here, it has robust interdisciplinary programs and approaches to the academics: this can be seen in my major of international studies at the Jackson School, my honors research project (in which I was able to reach out across departments in my other passions such as linguistics and East Asian studies), and even the plethora of extracurricular opportunities I feel I definitely took advantage of.

Why major at the Jackson School?
I entered UW already greatly interested in the Jackson School. I had heard from peers about its prestige among schools on international studies, and I always had a passion for the international world. I felt that, in order to truly understand any issue no matter how seemingly minute, or any discipline one was interested in exploring further into and contributing positively to it, one needed to take an international lens and see the interconnectedness of the global tapestry as being instrumental and consequential. I still believe this. To me, the Jackson School and its versatility, along with the myriad of staff that work in many regional specialties of the world and/or of thematic focuses, seemed like a substantial fit for how I wished to learn.

Tell us about your reaction on becoming a Hellmann Scholar.
When I learned that I received the Hellmann Scholarship, I was delighted to see that I had earned it. I had applied in order to assist my studies abroad in Japan, in addition to my UW tuition. Though I am soon graduating, I am looking forward to carrying on the Hellmann Scholarship reputation as well as using the scholarship to support my future endeavors academically.

Tell us how the award helps your goals and career path.
This upcoming summer, I am preparing to observe the many paths that I have laid out in front of me. I decided to decline a position with the Japanese English Teaching Programme (JET) in order to apply again this upcoming cycle, and I am soon to look for opportunities in graduate schools both far and wide as well as back home at UW. I hope to continue the work and learning I’ve already achieved here and hope to apply it more in academics and the world at large, doing work related to education, research, and otherwise knowledge production.

Tell us about the places you’ve been able to study or research abroad.
In my time at the UW, I have been able to study abroad with Associate Professor Stephen Meyers to Geneva to work in a researcher position for the Human Rights Committee on Persons with Disabilities, specifically for the country of Tuvalu, with a small team. Through the process, (researching in a designated task force, conversing with large organizations in the human rights and humanitarian fields, and observing UN procedures in person) I feel like I was able to learn more about international law and the human rights system in effect more profoundly than back in the classroom. Another study abroad I was able to participate in was to Japan in an adjacent program called CET, in which I also gained an academic scholarship alongside it. As in Geneva, my interests in language and culture were satisfied in my classes and daily interactions with my peers in Japan, and I can confidently say that it contributed to my language confidence above all else.

What Jackson School class impacted you the most and why?
Though I have taken many impactful and interesting classes in the Jackson School, I might offer an unconventional choice in saying that the introductory series class of JSIS 202, Cultural Interactions in an Interdependent World, with Associate Professor Vanessa Freije. Though I took this class during COVID and subsequently the years online, I remembered it had an effect on my that the other classes and their themes of near modern to modern history, while peaking my interest, did not have, as it pivoted to cover the cultural and anthropological side of the world in a necessary critical lens. I feel that this class thus acted as the conduit to which I viewed all following classes in my time in the Jackson School, and in the wider UW, and spoke to me in what I wished to pursue, as well as what lens and methodology I would conduct areas of research and more.

Key skills have you learned at the Jackson School you’ll apply to your career?
I think the key skills I learned at the Jackson School, in which I would take with me into my career, would be both content-wise as well as more general, practical skills. I learned my own perspective on the history and structure of the world through bountiful systems and ways, but I also learned how to construct my own theories around approaching often novel subjects and real-world phenomena. I also learned through the honors program effective research and research paper crafting, which adding on Task Force’s alteration into policy report writing, greatly improved my writing skills to accommodate and shape it targeting different audiences and purposes.

Advice for prospective Jackson School students?
I think my advice goes in tandem with what I have stated; I believe the Jackson School is an opportunity to discover and explore many multiple interests and passions all at once. Using this, I think a Jackson student is not bound by simply politics, history, or even foreign language proficiency, but it is their task to act as the branches of the interdisciplinary, and I would like to see more peers take on those challenges.