In the last week of classes in spring quarter, on June 1, 18 international studies and global and regional studies majors plus a first-year graduate student and three other Social Science majors grouped together in Thomson Hall and the HUB to present their insights on three pressing global topics – space policy, antisemitism, and hybrid warfare and NATO – to high-level experts in those fields.
Known as Task Force Evaluation Day, 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.
The presentations, which were held in person with the external evaluators Zooming in from Boston, New York and Washington D.C., involved each student featuring an area of their research report and advocating for their proposed solutions. It was also the culmination of eight weeks of research and writing, experiencing teamwork with a student from the group as lead coordinator, and diving into a topic many did know anything about going into the class.
Said Paulette Bussard, a senior double-majoring in global and regional studies and philosophy, of her Task Force Hybrid Warfare, Disinformation and NATO with faculty instructor Sarah Lohmann: “Even though I hadn’t spent much of my educational career devoted to the study of warfare or Europe, the opportunity to connect with experts in the field proved to be invaluable to both the Task Force report and my own education.”
Task Force Spring 2023 Topics
- Japan’s Space Policy
- Defining Antisemitism in a Global Context
- Hybrid Warfare, Disinformation and the NATO Response
Task Force 2023 Evaluators
- Mai’a K. Davis Cross, Director, Center for International Affairs & World Cultures, Northeastern University
- Jeff Rathke, Director of the American-German Institute, Johns Hopkins University
- Ken Stern, Director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate
In their own words: Translating Task Force into career skills
During the two-hour evaluation, the guest expert peppered the students individually and as a group about their research and assumptions about their proposes approaches to solving the issues: Does Finland need NATO? What would persuade a decision-maker to do this recommendation? Why is outer space so important to Japan?
“Even though I delivered quite a few presentations before, the Task Force Evaluation was a brand-new experience to me. The reason for that is that we interact with a professional person who has been playing active roles in the real world,” said Kazuhiko Kimura who was in the Task Force Japan’s Space Policy with instructor Saadia Pekkanen. “Even though I delivered quite a few presentations before, the Task Force Evaluation was a brand-new experience to me. The reason for that is that we interact with a professional person who has been playing active roles in the real world.”
An exchange student from the University of Tokyo, Kimura says that Task Force broadened his job prospects, and he now desires to to work as a diplomat in the future. Read more: Task Force Q&A with Kazuhiko
For Kaden Kaeo, who aims to work in the international nonprofit sector in disaster risk management and with vulnerable populations, his Task Force Defining Antisemitism in a Global Context with instructor Noam Pianko, shared his experience of the evaluation: “Being confronted with salient and intense debates by experts as a professional party was a novel and deeply rewarding experience that allowed each team member to test the limits of their knowledge and encouraged the group as a whole to think on their feet.”
When considering skills he learned in Task Force Kaeo said: “Looking at how these skills translate to the professional world, the experience of the Task Force program should be universally applicable in the fields of team-based work, content creation, communication, and basic workplace flexibility, all of which serve to greatly benefit roles requiring cooperation in any capacity.” Read more: Task Force Q&A with Kaden
“The opportunity to work with peers and experts in the field of European and NATO conflict has provided me with skills on how to not only analyze developing conflict, but also how to communicate the complexity of dynamic issues that are being faced around the globe,” said Bussard, who served as Chief Liaison for the Task Force group.
Bussard, who plans on applying to law school in the Fall and to pursue a career in criminal litigation, added: “Skills in research and data collection are vital to nearly every career, and the ability to hone these skills in a professional environment is not a common opportunity to come across in one’s undergraduate career.” Read more: Task Force Q&A with Paulette
Kaeo shared his advice to students interested in international studies and the Jackson School: “The Task Force program is yet another facet of diversity that the Jackson School offers, challenging its students to test their limits and expand their abilities to seek a future wherever and however, they choose.”