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Task Force Q&A with Lucas Cox ’22

March 29, 2022

In winter quarter 2022, over 100 international studies and global and regional studies seniors and several juniors completed the Jackson School’s Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program, a capstone course that involves 10-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 Week, when each Task Force presents to an external, senior-level foreign policymaker. 

Lucas Cox

Name: Lucas Cox
Expected to graduate: Spring 2022
Degree: International Studies and minoring in political science and Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies
Task Force 2022: NATO & Emerging Technology
Jackson School Faculty Adviser: Sarah Lohmann
External Evaluator: Carol V. Evans, Director, Strategic Studies Institute and USAWC Press U.S. Army War College

What has been your favorite Task Force experience?
Lucas Cox:
It was part of our assignment to prepare a chapter for the NATO Handbook on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience in cooperation with the NATO Center of Excellence Defense Against Terrorism and the U.S. Army War College. Giving the keynote address at a real NATO conference, which was held online, in front of prestigious members of the foreign policy world was for sure a surreal experience. I knew that the goal of Task Force was to analyze an issue in the field and provide recommendations to a person in the field, but I had no idea that it would take the form of 15 UW students taking center stage providing important recommendations to the world’s preeminent military alliance.

What key skills do you think the Task Force program gives you?
Everything we do as undergraduates is so focused on analyzing existing knowledge and proving our understanding of it. However, I think the most valuable aspect of a college education is knowing how to think critically, and this was the first time that was put to the test.

Our particular Task Force was unique in the fact that we got real-time feedback not only from our professor, but from folks at the U.S. Army War College and NATO. We had to work that into our work with tight deadlines, often with drastically changing parameters. That really gave us a peek into the high-stakes pressure of the field.

What impressed you about the Task Force Evaluation Day itself?
The most rewarding aspect of having a voice in front of a high-level official is the feeling of empowerment that comes from actively being listened to. Our evaluator, Dr. Carol Evans at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, seemed to really appreciate our perspective and provided some really valuable insights into the importance of what we’ve been working so hard on. I got the sense that she and the folks at NATO actually cared about our perspectives and will take our recommendations into serious consideration.

In your own words, how would you promote the Task Force program?
The work that we do in the Jackson School matters for the world. This is one of the only opportunities that undergrads like us have the chance to put our foot in the door and make our voices heard. I think that’s a rare opportunity that sets the International Studies major at UW apart. Beyond that, don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone! Emerging military technology was something that I had little experience with but knew was an important subject that could expand my horizons and experience.

What career are you interested in pursuing after graduation?
I’m actually currently interning at the U.S. Army War College through this summer and continuing the work that NATO assigned our group. They are very interested in the future of terrorism in relation to the technologies we’ve been studying. Beyond that, I would love to work in the foreign service or intelligence field. I have a particular passion for arms control and helping stop the flow of ill-gotten money around the world.