YCAPS is thrilled to announce that Program Officer and long-time volunteer Jenna Lindeke Heavenrich has been selected for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)-Hitachi International Affairs Fellowship. We took this opportunity to ask Jenna more about her research and what she aims to achieve during her fellowship.
Jenna encountered YCAPS in 2016 shortly after its founding when she was a recently married Navy spouse living in Yokosuka. YCAPS offered her rich opportunities for intellectual exchange both inside and outside base gates, as well as pathways to overcome the limitations that being tied to base put on her career. "I would not have found out about the CFR-Hitachi fellowship if it were not for YCAPS’ extensive mentoring and networking," she explained. What started as event volunteer quickly led to becoming the secretary and then vice president of YCAPS.
A few years later, while teaching and living in Guam, Jenna came to admire the richness of Micronesia’s culture, history, and environment, but at the same time, she noticed firsthand how Pacific Islander voices are not reaching policymakers overseas. She also emphasized that the U.S. and other Western powers appear disjointed in their approach to the region. On the other hand, Japan has had more consistent, strategic relations with Micronesia and the broader Pacific Islands over time. During her fellowship, Jenna aims to help the U.S. learn from Japan while also strengthening her knowledge of Oceania. The U.S., Japan, and other like-minded countries have recently announced the "Partners for the Blue Pacific" initiative to increase strategic cooperation in the region. However, Jenna sees that the U.S. "has some work to do" with its approach to the region before solidifying cooperation and increased strategic relations. Furthermore, through her research, she hopes to not only expand her expertise on Pacific Island dynamics but also become a bridge for the U.S., Japan, and other partners to better hear, understand, and appreciate the voices of Pacific Island communities.
Through reaching out, networking, building partnerships, and hosting events, Jenna appreciates YCAPS as a place where she gained confidence in her professional value. YCAPS showed her that she is worthy of being in those distinguished spaces. Her role in Community Conversations has largely been in making connections, whether with speakers, partners, or volunteers. Somewhere in that process, she says found that she suddenly felt "enough" to engage with world-class experts and all levels of community. "It has been a joy," Jenna says about her career at YCAPS.
Jenna is currently back in her hometown in Minnesota for the summer, supporting YCAPS remotely. She will begin her CFR-Hitachi fellowship in Tokyo this October. We at YCAPS wish Jenna the best of success in her fellowship.