RSEA Alumni Panel held virtually

October 29, 2020

RSEA hosted the 2020 Alumni Panel on October 22 as an online meeting. The virtual event was enjoyed by 45 participants including current students, faculty members, and more alumni than would normally be able to attend in person, including a good number from outside the US.  RSEA Chair Professor James Robson noted this bonus of the current remote era as he greeted everyone joining from across many time zones.  GSAS Dean Emma Dench added her welcoming remarks on behalf of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 

Six RSEA alumni panelists were invited to reflect on aspects of their RSEA experience that have shaped their career since they graduated.

Jack Meng-Tat Chia (AM ’11) Assistant Professor, History & Religious Studies, National University of Singapore

Jessica J. Lee (AM ’08) Senior Research Fellow for East Asia, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Bin Ouyang (AM '12) Associate Director of China Programs, Asia Society, and former journalist

Julie Sheetz (AM ’12) Chief of Staff for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Maiko Takeuchi (AM ’07) Member of the Panel of Experts on North Korea, United Nations Security Council

Judith T. Zeitlin (AM ’83) Professor of Chinese Literature, Department of EALC and the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies, University of Chicago


For panelists' bios see the 2020 Alumni Panel program.

The panelists also offered advice to current students on making the most of their time in the program. A common theme was the hallmark flexibility of the RSEA program, with several panelists appreciating the opportunity to design their own course of study and to learn from diverse peers in classes spanning several departments and schools. This interdisciplinary breadth, plus acquired language and analytical skills, enabled them to embark on PhDs or careers in government or nonprofits. Panelists reported that these transferable skills, plus their regional expertise in East Asia, opened doors to positions and on-the-job learning opportunities. Considering the challenges of the current time, alumni panelists urged students to be kind to themselves, to look out for each other, and to make connections with peers and faculty that will become part of an important network as they build their careers. 

Participants chose to join one of three breakout sessions with panelists working in academic careers, government careers, or nonprofit and public service careers. This was an opportunity for current students to ask questions of the panelists and for other alumni with experience in the sector to add their comments and advice.  Then followed two shorter opportunities for meeting with other participants in small groups, as a near-equivalent to the conversations around dinner tables that would normally be an enjoyable feature of this event. 

Professor Robson wrapped up the evening by thanking all the panelists and attendees for their lively participation. He invited alumni to stay in touch with the RSEA community particularly as we prepare to mark the program's 75th anniversary next year.