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Military Fellow Embraces UW Experience

Story by
Nancy Joseph

Lieutenant Colonel Jaren Price’s 20-year military career reads like a world atlas. He’s been a platoon leader in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a logistics officer in Germany, an intelligence officer in Serbia, Kuwait, and Iraq, and an operations officer in South Korea. Stateside, he’s had assignments in Kansas, Arizona, and Kentucky. Now he’s in the best place of all--the Puget Sound region (of course)—as the UW’s first-ever Asia-Pacific Military Fellow.

Lieutenant Colonel Jaren Price

"The UW has fantastic resources," says Lieutenant Colonel Jaren Price, the UW's first Asia-Pacific Military Fellow. Media credit: Kristina Bowman

The fellowship, based in the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) and funded by the Army, is a partnership between the University of Washington, the Army War College, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Fellows spend a year at the UW studying the politics, history, and culture of one or more countries in the Pacific.

“Our interactions with other nations are, at their heart, visceral and human,” explains Major General William Hix, director of strategies, plans, and policy for the Army. “If you don’t understand the human aspects—the culture, the politics—everything else may be irrelevant. Having an understanding of how other people think is important. When Jaren heads back to the Pacific next year, he will be able to help senior leaders make better informed decisions and implement things in a more effective manner because of the time he spent at the University of Washington.”

The military has a long tradition of educational fellowships.  Most participating institutions have been located on the East Coast or abroad; the UW is only the second university on the West Coast with such a fellowship, joining Stanford University.

...I look forward to applying what I’m learning here. I know that the connections I’m making now will be important in the future.

The fellowship grew out of a conversation between JSIS Director Reşat Kasaba and Lieutenant General Stephen R. Lanza, Commanding General of I Corps, headquartered at JBLM in Tacoma. “Stephen told me that the Joint Base is going to be central as the U.S. government pivots toward China and the Pacific Rim, and that it is important for officers to know about Asia,” Kasaba recalls. “Given the strength of the Jackson School, he thought it would be great if we could create a fellowship program here.” UW Tacoma, which has close ties with JBLM, is also part of the collaboration.

Jaren Price with Saadia Pekkanen

Jaren Price meets weekly with his faculty mentor in the Jackson School, Saadia Pekkanen. Media credit: Kristina Bowman

During his fellowship year, Price will enroll in six UW courses, speak to other classes, complete a year-long research project, and travel to Washington, DC to brief Congressional staff about his research. The focus of the research is recent changes in Japan security legislation that may significantly increase Japan’s military capabilities. Price is exploring how those changes might affect stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the role of the U.S. military in that region.

Saadia Pekkanen, Gertrud Tamaki Professor in the Jackson School, is Price’s mentor for the year, meeting with him weekly to discuss his research and to guide him toward UW resources. “It’s a two-way exchange,” says Pekkanen. “I’m able to offer the historical and cultural context, and Jaren knows about the region from an operational point of view. It’s really wonderful to engage with him on that level. It really expands my frontiers, to think about what policy changes mean operationally on the ground.”

Lieutenant Colonel Jaren Price, Major General William Hix, and Jackson School director Resat Kasaba.

Lieutenant Colonel Jaren Price (left) with Major General William Hix and Jackson School director Reşat Kasaba. Media credit: Monique Thormann

Price looks forward to using his newfound knowledge on his next military assignment in 2016. But for now he’s enjoying the Pacific Northwest and the academic immersion his fellowship provides.

“When you’re in the military and you’re around people who do the same kind of work that you do, a lot of times you tend to think alike,” says Price. “At the UW, people have very different perspectives on security, on Asia, on international relations. Just being able to listen and participate in the conversations in class is really enlightening. Beyond that, there are so many things going on at the University. Whether it’s a guest lecturer coming to the Jackson School or an ambassador coming in or all the arts events on campus, the UW has fantastic resources. My next assignment should be in the Asia-Pacific region, so I look forward to applying what I’m learning here. I know that the connections I’m making now will be important in the future."