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Task Force: Recommending solutions to major global issues

March 24, 2023

Over winter quarter 2023, 77 international studies and global and regional studies seniors applied their critical thinking and research skills to recommend how to address some of the most challenging global issues. Divided into five groups and following eight weeks of research and writing, on March 8 and 10 this year via Zoom and in-person, the students gave two-hour presentations on their research and their suggested approaches to change policy to external evaluators who were located in Brussels, Finland, Oregon and Washington D.C.

It was all part of the Jackson School’s Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program, an annual student-led experiential learning capstone course guided by faculty that engages students in research, writing, teamwork, and presentation skills under pressure.

Task Force 2023 Topics

Task Force 2023 Evaluators

  • Dan Arnaudo, Senior Advisor for Information Strategies, Technology, and Innovation at the National Democratic Institute
  • Cameron Coval, Pueblo Unido PDX
  • Commander Georgios Giannoulis, Deputy Director, Community of Interest on Vulnerabilities and Resilience, The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE)
  • Mike Mochizuki, Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
  • Conny Reuter, Global Coordinator of Progressive Alliance and former Brussels based European NGO leader
  • Emma Ronai-Durning, Rural Organizing Project, Oregon

Making an impact, gaining skills
“Task Force was both a challenging and a rewarding experience for the whole team. It was the perfect way to culminate and demonstrate the knowledge I’ve gained in the last four years as a student in the Jackson School,” said Claire Paiement, a senior and double-major in global and regional studies and economics who participated in the Task Force Should Japan “Go Nuclear”?

“Task Force teaches you the virtues of calculated leadership and immense patience. Although not necessarily technical in nature, these skills will apply to any career that one wants to pursue,” said Ethan Acevedo, a global and regional studies senior also in the Task Force on whether Japan should “go nuclear,” which produced a report and recommendations titled, “Nuclear Jeopardy: The Dangers of Japanese Proliferation.”

Keegan Hull, a senior majoring in global and regional studies with minors in Spanish and Latin American & Caribbean Studies said of his undertaking the Task Force Research for Social Change, said: “The Task Force Program definitely advanced my skills in research and data analysis. My group got to work with data that was extremely important and interesting in regards to migrant rights and the sanctuary movement – data that we were the first to analyze – and being able to translate that data into patterns and trends in order to aid migrant rights organizations was really fulfilling.”

“Teaching Task Force is always a pleasure and because I get to work closely with a small team of students,” said Angelina Godoy, Jackson School professor and director of the UW Center for Human Rights who served as the faculty instructor for Hull’s Task Force Research for Social Change. “This particular experience was particularly powerful because students contributed to real-world research. I’m proud of the hard work they put in and the insights they were able to derive from their analysis of government data.”

Hull summed up his experience for students interested in the Jackson School’s Task Force Program: “I think that when you take so many classes and write so many papers for those classes, it is easy to forget what the major is preparing you for. The Task Force, however, is a great culmination of your work and prepares you well for whatever you might want to do after graduation.”

Creating research that matters 
On March 10 via Zoom from Helsinki, Commander of Hellenic Navy Georgios Giannoulis, Deputy Director, Community of Interest on Vulnerabilities and Resilience at The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), interacted with 16 students in the Task Force Hybrid Warfare, Disinformation and the NATO Response, ranging from asking them to expand and clarify their policy recommendations to sharing other dimensions of the issue they could consider in their research.

“As an evaluator of this course, I have been impressed by the quality of the student’s research and the extensive use of references and bibliography. They have demonstrated a thorough understanding of a very demanding research topic,” he said. “Despite the fact that providing policy-level recommendations can be a challenging and complex task, the students have shown that they are capable of thinking critically and creatively as well as constructively debating their argumentations during the evaluation.”

On March 8, Conny Reuter, Global Coordinator of Progressive Alliance and former Brussels based European NGO leader, evaluated the Task Force “Countering the ILLIBERAL Drift in Europe: Assessing the role of civil society and governments,” comprised of 14 students and held in-person at UW’s Denny Hall.

“I am impressed by the hard, productive and quality work of the Task Force members on such a crucial societal issue for Europe and at global level. This experience will strengthen their leadership capacity” he said.

“It was really nice to have a conversation with someone who has spent so much time in this particular field, and for them to share their perspectives on our project with us. I especially appreciated that it wasn’t just a time for them to critique our report, but to share patterns across our Task Force report and their own work, and to collaborate on how to incorporate our report findings into the evaluator’s own efforts to support the sanctuary movement,” said Jackson School senior Keegan Hull of his Task Force Research for Social Change that produced a report titled, “Supporting Sanctuary Efforts: Trends in Apprehension Data.”

Task Force instructors also provide valuable feedback to the students both before and during their Task Force Evaluation Day presentations, ranging from speech organization, timing, PowerPoint content quality, to encouraging students to think about the evaluation as a one-to-one conversation with someone who is excited about the topic and the student report.

Founded in 1983, this year also represents 40 years since the program began at the Jackson School. The Task Force program currently has over 4,000 other alumni. Task Force is also offered in Spring 2023.