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Task Force Q&A: Antonia Zito

June 10, 2024

In spring quarter 2024, 19 international studies and global and regional studies students majors completed the Jackson School’s Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program, a capstone course that involved eight weeks of research, writing and group collaboration on a current global issue. Student-led and guided by faculty, the program culminates during Task Force Evaluation Day, when each Task Force presents to an external, senior-level foreign policymaker.

Antonia Zito at podium

Antonia Zito ’25

Name: Antonia Zito
Expected to graduate in: Spring 2025
Major: Global and Regional Studies and History
Hometown: Panama City, Panama

Task Force Title: U.S.- Japan Alliance in the World
Task Force Instructor: Saadia Pekkanen

What has been your favorite Task Force experience?
My favorite Task Force experience was being able to see how my team came together as the weeks of the quarter quickly flew by. I was so happy to see the different friendships that emerged because of this. Only a few classes bring a group of people together in a short amount of time, and the Task Force did exactly that.  It was also refreshing to hear various points of views on a single topic based on everyone’s different research experience. The structure of the class as a whole surprised me. I knew this was going to be a student-led class, but I was not expecting to see how necessary the student leadership team was.

Your takeaway key skill from Task Force?Key skill/s do you think the Task Force program
The Task Force program left me with so many new skills and had a huge impact on my future career. I had never taken a student-led class, let alone become the project manager for one. My previous leadership skills emerged throughout this experience; however, I was able to expand on them as the Task Force required me to step out of my comfort zone as a leader. I saw many of my previous skills morph into new forms of themselves through this experience. For instance, I learned a new type of time management skills due to the heavy time commitment required and the tight deadlines my team and I were faced with. I additionally learned a new form of teamwork, as at the start of the quarter we were a group of 10 complete strangers and had no idea what each other’s strengths and weaknesses were. This new form of teamwork further enhancing my adaptability skills, because as leadership, I was expected to constantly have a plan for all of the setbacks and errors that may have occurred. Lastly, I also learned what it means to be patient and understanding of each individual’s needs. Overall, this experience had a huge impact on my career as it further confirmed that I want to work with foreign services within the U.S. government, as my team and I presented policy recommendations to the U.S. State Department. This experience showed me that this is exactly the type of environment I want to be in for my future career, as I now know I can thrive in it.

What impressed you about the Task Force Evaluation Day itself?
I was so impressed with the layout of Evaluation Day, as it truly did feel as if we were in an official government briefing room. My team’s evaluator had to join through Zoom, and I was worried that it would not feel like an official presentation, however the environment was set up accordingly. I was happily impressed with the resources and supplies given to my team and I by the Jackson School to properly give a professional presentation. Moreover, I was incredibly pleased with my team’s and I ability to go through our presentation exactly how we had practiced it–we had a flawless run. However, the most rewarding part of Evaluation Day was how everyone on my team who was asked a question about their particular section of the report was able to give a cohesive and complete answer that the evaluator appreciated–including myself. Some of the questions asked to my team and I were outside of the scope of our report, yet everyone did an amazing job at properly answering. Lastly, the other most rewarding part of Evaluation Day was to hear how pleased the evaluator was with our report and presentation. The evaluator’s approval made all the hard-work my team and I put into our deliverables valuable.

Advice to prospective Jackson School majors?
I always recommend the International Studies major at the Jackson School because I truly believe this department cares about its students through the various opportunities they offer students. However, now, I can share my personal experience with the Task Force to show students that it is possible to take class which allows them to engage with hands-on work that is relevant to foreign affairs at a global scale. To further promote the program, I would explain the various skills that an individual, regardless of their position, gains from taking a class such as this one, and that it is a great opportunity for leadership-skills building. I would also express that even though this class is extremely time consuming, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

What career are you interested in pursuing after graduation?
While I may not know exactly what position I would like to have in the future, I am certain I want to work in the diplomatic realm–especially now after my Task Force experience. I want to be able to experience what I did this quarter for the rest of my life; I want to be able to advise U.S. policy makers on what the best course of action may be. As a foreigner, I believe I would be able to provide a different perspective to various sectors of global affairs.