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To Rome (and beyond), with Task Force

January 10, 2018

Jackson School Task Force students visit the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, in the first few days of arrival. Photo taken Jan. 6, 2018
Over 20 Jackson School students arrive in Rome, Italy, for our eight-week intensive Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program. First stop: The Colosseum! Photo taken on January 6, 2018

For 35 years this winter, undergraduate seniors who are international studies majors will work in teams to research current international issues, write a concise policy report, craft possible responses, and present these to ambassadors, military leaders and other high-level experts, for evaluation.

Formally renamed this year as the Donald C. Hellmann Task Force, this capstone course is made possible through the generous support of donors and a number of our U.S. Department of Education funded Title VI Centers, including the Center for Global Studies, Center for West European Studies, and Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies.

Learn more about the history, people and impact of Task Force via our new website here.

Watch our new Task Force video featuring Task Force students, alumni and faculty.

Task Force in 2018
Known as the Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program, this year over 130 students are in teams of 12-15, and will tackle one of the following topics, learning leadership, research and writing for a non-academic audience, and presentation skills:

  • Nuclear Crisis: Anatomy of the North Korean Situation and How to Defuse It
  • Global Survey of Internet-based Election Interference
  • Populism: Global Spread and Policy Implications
  • Space Hub Seattle: Positioning Washington State in the Global Newspace Industry
  • Native Americans on the Frontline of Environmental Protection
  • The New Cold War in the Baltic Sea Region
  • Comprehensive US Immigration and Refugee Policy
  • ‘Alternative Facts’: Strategies to Counter Fake News, Conspiracy Theories, and Disinformation
  • The Future of U.S. Foreign Aid
  • NATO and Russia (based in Rome, Italy)
  • Brexit and the Future of the European Union (based in Rome, Italy)

Examples of who is coming this year to evaluate our Task Force student research and policy recommendations:

  • Elizabeth Ferris, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, and former Senior Advisor to the UN General Assembly’s Summit for Refugees and Migrants
  • Jill Dougherty, former White House Correspondent and Moscow Bureau Chief, CNN
  • James Kunder, former Deputy Administrator, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Winona LaDuke, Executive Director, Honor the Earth
  • Gen. Stephen Lanza, former Commanding General, I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
  • John Manza, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations, NATO
  • Thomas Matussek, former Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the U.N.
  • Paul Nicholas, Senior Director, Global Security and Diplomacy, Microsoft
  • Sarah Repucci, Senior Director, Global Publications, Freedom House

To Rome, with Task Force
The expansion of Task Force in Rome, a first-ever Task Force based fully abroad and that launched last year, is one example of how we’re preparing our students for the 21st century world: teaching first-hand context creation and access to global decision-making bodies, from NATO to the World Food Program and more.

Wolf Latsch, Director of Academic Services and Director of the International Studies Undergraduate Program, shares his impressions from a visit to the inaugural Task Force in Rome last year:

“In winter 2017, 20 seniors launched our pilot program of Task Force at the UW Rome Center, situated on the picturesque and bustling Campo de’ Fiori in the center of Rome.

At the Rome Center, a 17th-century palazzo built on the ruins of ancient Rome’s first public theater, the students immersed themselves for 10 weeks in the study of challenges to European unity. Under the direction of two Jackson School instructors, Professors Rick Lorenz and Phil Wall, they completed courses on European security and European economic integration and crafted a set of recommendations to the U.S. Government on issues ranging from migration and the rise of Russia to the Euro crisis and Brexit.

Guest speakers and experts from NATO headquarters, the Supreme Court of Ireland, St. Petersburg and from embassies in Rome provided the team with insights and background that helped the students stay on top of fast-moving developments. The team also travelled to the NATO Defense College for a fact-finding visit and participated in a NATO policy simulation.

In between classes, Task Force meetings, and ‘nerding out’ in late-night debates of European issues in their nearby accommodations, students found time to explore the sights of Rome as well as Naples and Pompeii, and many of them enjoyed weekend excursions to other places in Italy.

The students’ time in Rome was capped by presenting the policy report and recommendations to an outside expert. On the final day of the program U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott travelled from Belgrade to Rome to engage the students during a three-hour briefing, challenging them on their findings and proposals. The conversation continued at dinner in a nearby restaurant, giving the students the rare opportunity to interact both intellectually and socially with a high-ranking policy

One of them wrote that the program gave him his “first glimpse of how practitioners in international relations carry out their work in foreign countries”. Another student noted that it was “the most rewarding and engaging experience of my undergrad career”. We hope to make Rome a regular feature of our Task Force Program: 20 students will be taking up residence at the Rome Center in winter 2018, with plenty more study and research to be done on fast-changing European policy


Explore the Donald C. Hellmann Task Force