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Undergraduate Academic Affairs

May 9, 2016

UW alumnus Benjamin Lee selected as Carnegie Junior Fellow

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Benjamin Lee poses with a sculpture of Senator Jackson.

Benjamin Lee poses with a sculpture of Senator Henry M. Jackson.

For 2015 University of Washington graduate  Benjamin Lee, the opportunity to participate in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellowship program is a dream come true. The Carnegie junior fellows work as research assistants alongside the endowment’s more senior associates. The work is centered on international issues related to security and economics. Lee will be part of the Asia Studies division, working with Dr. Michael Swaine, a preeminent scholar on US-China security.

For Lee, this work is deeply personal and stems from his background as a Korean-American. “Most people ask why a Korean-American is interested in China,” explains Lee. “But, it’s actually a direct result of my experience growing up hearing about the tragic memories of the Korean War that sparked my interest in China’s security. In my international relations class, we discussed how throughout history war has been inevitable between the established and rising powers. If there is anything I can do to help prevent China from going through a war and experiencing the losses of innocent people, I want to help.”

The Carnegie Junior Fellowship is a first step in working towards this goal. Lee’s work will focus on China’s security. He will help Dr. Swaine prepare articles for the journal “China Leadership Monitor” and attend conferences related to US-China relations and the Asia–Pacific region. It will give him insight into working on public policy and issues of security. He anticipates this experience will be formative in determining his next steps, which tentatively include graduate school.

Lee first applied to the 2015 Carnegie Junior Fellowship program. After not being selected he was encouraged to re-apply by Robin Chang, Director of the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards. “I didn’t get this scholarship because I worked hard. It was truly a group effort,” reflects Lee. Robin supported me through the process, as did David Bachman of the Jackson School. He always welcomed me to office hours and encouraged me in my studies and application process. Jackson School Honors Program Director Deborah Porter had a huge influence on my intellectual development. During our work on my honors thesis, she showed me how to be a scholar. She pushed me to work very hard – both in my writing and thinking. I learned so much through the process. Professor William Boltz of the Asian Languages & Literatures also encouraged me to apply for the fellowship and wrote me a strong recommendation letter.  All of these experiences helped prepare me for this fellowship.”

“It’s been a privilege to study at the University of Washington. My four years were really wonderful.”

After graduating in 2015, Lee moved to Beijing to study at Tsinghua University, part of the Inter-University Program. He’s studying Mandarin in order to better communicate with scholars in his field.  His fellowship starts in August, and he looks forward to being in Washington D.C. during the election season.