Jefferson Fellowships

The Jefferson Fellowships offer print and broadcast journalists from the United States, Asia and the Pacific Islands the unique opportunity to gain on-the-ground perspectives and build international networks to enhance their reporting through an intensive one-week education and dialogue seminar at the East-West Center in Honolulu followed by a two week reporting tour in the Asia Pacific-U.S. region.

Program Background

Jefferson Fellows interview U Win Tin, a founding member of the National League for Democracy, who spent 19 years in prison.The Jefferson Fellowships is the East-West Center’s most widely-recognized and established seminar program, with an illustrious alumni network of more than 600 Jefferson Fellows across the Asia Pacific region and the United States. The broad goal of the program is to to enhance public understanding through the news media of cultures, issues and trends in the Asia Pacific region. Participation in the Jefferson Fellowships provides journalists with an opportunity to report from cities across the Asia Pacific on key issues and developments taking place, sharing with audiences first-hand perspectives and new insights. The program provides a unique combination of study-dialogue at the East-West Center with a reporting trip taken with colleagues from countries across the region. This provides journalists with enhanced knowledge of the most important regional issues, reporting imbued with perspectives from journalists from 10 different countries, valuable professional contacts, and life-long friendships with their colleagues in the program. They also gain access to the EWC’s international network of more than 1,000 media professionals and 50,000 alumni. The program is made possible through a generous grant from The Freeman Foundation of Stowe Vermont and supplemented by contributions from news organizations, US Embassies in Asia Pacific, other foundations and the East-West Center.

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Reflections from 2016 Jefferson Fellows:

"There cannot be anything better than this program to enhance the knowledge of next generation journalists on the U.S. and Asia Pacific."

"I can't stress how useful it was to get on-record interviews with current and former political and military leaders in China, Japan, and the U.S.  It is rare for media in my country to get that kind of access anywhere.  I also found the meetings with working mothers and university students highly enlightening. It added real world and unscripted view points."

"The program will certainly inform my own ongoing coverage of the U.S., Asia and the Pacific.  It is important to understand the physical context of events, and the nuances of different cultural mindsets and world views, to write with any credibility - rather than rely on second hand or derived information and views. The program delivered on all of this plus yielded fruitful networking opportunities which will be positive for years to come."

The 2017 Jefferson Fellowships program

Theme: Trade, Security and Strategic Relationships in Asia Pacific and the Future of the US Role

Destination: Honolulu, Hawaii; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing & Shenzhen, China; Manila, Philippines

Dates: May 6-May 28, 2017

Congratulations to the 2017 Jefferson Fellows!

The U.S. has elected one of the most unconventional Presidents in its history. Donald Trump's statements on the campaign trail and actions as President-elect have challenged the status quo of core U.S. policies in the Asia Pacific and suggested significant changes in approach. The realities of a new Trump Administration are beginning to take shape as key positions are filled. Policies will become increasingly clear as the Administration embarks upon its first 100 days. America has long played a role as a stabilizing force in the Asia Pacific region, a key trading partner, a promoter of democracy and in recent years a counterbalance to a rising China. Changes could have significant implications for stability and growth in this dynamic region as both U.S. allies and other Asia Pacific countries take into account the possible shifts in U.S. policies.

The 2017 Jefferson Fellowships will explore the stakes in the Asia Pacific region in terms of trade, security, and partnerships in the face of new U.S. policies, approaches and actions. In sessions at the East-West Center in Honolulu, journalists will have an opportunity to hear from U.S.-based analysts about the new administration’s domestic agenda and foreign-policy priorities. Journalists will share with each other through topic papers and presentations how their countries are viewing the Trump Administration and what its policies may mean for their economies, regional partnerships, internal politics and security. A visit to Tokyo will explore the U.S.-Japan treaty alliance and forward-deployed American military; U.S.-Japan economic ties, including the almost certain collapse of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP); Japan’s perception of regional security challenges, especially North Korea; and whether it may reconsider its stance toward self-defense and nuclear weapons. In Beijing and Shenzhen, the Jefferson Fellows will explore the political, security and economic relationships with China. They will hear firsthand China's reactions to the Trump Administration in the country’s center of government as well as one of its most entrepreneurial cities, China’s export and manufacturing hub. There are many areas of actual and potential tension with increased expressions of protectionism in the U.S., an economic slowdown and restructuring in China, and greater Chinese assertions of power. The Philippines, a US treaty ally, has been a reliable strategic American partner and a key challenger to China’s claims in the South China Sea. But the 2016 election of Rodrigo Duterte, also an unorthodox political leader, has taken the Philippines in a new direction with outreach to China and statements dismissing the United States. In Manila, journalists will explore how the Duterte Administration envisions the Philippine economy, its security, and its relationship with the United States and the rest of the region, especially China, ASEAN and Japan. They also will examine how a new Trump Administration that may be less open to trade, immigration and outsourcing, and less predictable in its approach to regional relationships will impact Asia’s developing nations in a time of economic uncertainty and significant power shifts.

2017 Jefferson Fellows:

  • Mr. Henry (Hal) Berton, Staff Reporter, The Seattle Times, Seattle, USA
  • Ms. Huong Doan, Reporter, The Economy and Urban Newspaper, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Mr. Thonglor Duangsavanh, Director-General, Vientiane Times Newspaper, Vientiane, Laos                                       
  • Ms. Bhagyashree Buddhavarapu Garekar, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore
  • Ms. Kaori Hitomi, Senior Producer, Associated Press, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  • Ms. Viviana Hurtado, Anchor, WTOL/WUPW, Toledo, USA
  • Mr. Abdul Azim Idris, Senior Writer/Journalist, Hybrid News Limited / The Asian Correspondent, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Mr. Xiaofeng (Terry) Jiang, Assistant Editor-in-Chief; Senior International Correspondent, Phoenix Satellite Television, Shenzhen, China
  • Ms. Wendy Lee, Tech Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, USA
  • Ms. Waywaya (Aya) Lowe, Philippine Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia, Manila, Philippines
  • Ms. Quintina Primrose Naime, Senior Journalist, LOOP PNG, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Mr. Toshifumi Oikawa, Reporter, International News Division, NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, Japan
  • Mr. Debasish Roy Chowdhury, Deputy Editor, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
  • Ms. Stacey Samuel, Supervising Editor, National Public Radio (NPR), Washington, DC, USA
  • Ms. Philippa Tolley, Executive Producer Insight, Radio New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand


The 2016 Jefferson Fellowships program

Theme:  The Future of Growth in Asia Pacific

Destinations: Honolulu, Hawaii; Beijing & Guiyang, China; Fukuoka, Kitakyushu and Tokyo, Japan

Dates: April 30-May 22, 2016

Over the past half century, the Asia-Pacific region has been in the forefront of global growth. But now there are uncertainties about the longer-term economic future of the region. There are questions about where growth will come from and how countries can achieve it. While countries across the region have somewhat different sets of concerns, some common challenges include population aging, increased labor costs and a loss of competitive advantage, reduced overseas demand, a need for more inclusive prosperity, serious resource and environmental problems, and the imperative of climate change.

The 2016 Jefferson Fellowships focused on Asia’s search for new, more sustainable growth models through sessions with experts and one another in Honolulu and by exploring economic challenges and restructuring in Japan and China. As the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest economies, the success of China and Japan in finding new models will have wide reaching impacts. After decades of rapid growth, China’s overall growth is falling, internal debt is rising and China fears falling into the middle income trap, getting old before it gets rich. Through travel to Beijing and Guiyang, capital of China's 2nd poorest province, the journalists explored China’s efforts to maintain its growth as it shifts to a new model based more on domestic demand versus government investment, higher value-added manufacturing, and a dynamic service sector, while also addressing dire environmental degradation and the need for a broader distribution of wealth. In Japan, the economy has been in near stagnation for 20 years. It also is in the vanguard of population aging with the world’s oldest society. Meetings and visits in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka and Tokyo explored Prime Minister Abe’s structural reform measures intended to boost the economy out of persistent deflation--especially, greater female and elder labor market participation, opening to foreign workers, investments in innovative robotics, advancements in elder care, spurring entrepreneurship, expanding tourism and regional revitalization. The journalists also learned how regional relationships, trade, and the political and geo-strategic issues in the Asia Pacific region affect economic cooperation, development and growth.

It was an ambitious and wide-ranging program that sought to tie together the ways that the region’s two largest and most important economies are dealing with the challenges of environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive growth as their populations age and societies change. The journalists found the theme to be extremely relevant. As one journalist noted in his evaluation, “These are two of the great themes in Asia right now and we looked at them through a number of different lenses in a number of different ways.”

The Honolulu program was designed to provide journalists with background information about the theme, US perspectives and an opportunity to learn from each other.  Sessions covered an overview of growth challenges for Asia Pacific, the Transpacific Partnership, implications of population aging, security threats, China’s economic transition and Japan’s economic development story. Mark Glick of Hawaii’s State Energy Office shared Hawaii’s experience in trying to maintain growth while shifting its energy mix to be 100% renewable by 2045. A meeting with Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery at Pacific Command provided an enlightening overview of US perspectives on the security challenges of the region and the US role.

In Beijing, the journalists appreciated the access to high level officials and academics representing government views. A highlight of the program was a 90-mimute engagement in English with Wang Xining, Deputy Director-General of the Information Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who responded to questions on a wide range of topics from the South China Sea to the China-Pakistan  Economic Corridor to the US Presidential election. Journalists gained insights into China’s aging population, economic transformation, one belt one road regional development plans, and ecological and environmental measures. On this latter topic, they heard from academics, officials and business leaders, who are leading China’s efforts to clean its water, use energy more efficiently, incorporate solar and wind, and improve technologies to burn coal cleanly and make use of low grade coal products. They also got a sense of how China sees itself in the world, and its vision for its future role in the region. An excursion to the Great Wall and an engagement with East-West Center alumni rounded out the program with exposure to the culture and networking with Chinese from a wide range of fields.

In Guiyang, capital city of China’s second poorest but fastest growing province, journalists had a chance to see the future of growth. It was not what they expected. Even the Chinese journalist was surprised by the amount of development—a glimmering city with neon lights, high-end shops, and beautiful new roads, toll booths and other infrastructure extending for hundreds of miles outside of the city. Construction cranes everywhere and literally hundreds of new high rise apartment buildings going up in every direction made the journalists wonder if all of it was real. The city is striving to become a hub of cloud computing and to try to leapfrog past China’s export manufacturing phase of development directly to a more ecological, high tech model of economic advancement and job creation. An issue for Guiyang is providing economic opportunity for its many isolated ethnic minority populations while also allowing them to maintain their culture and identity. One strategy is to build roads to their remote villages to facilitate tourism. The journalists traveled to an ethnic minority village outside Kaili, four hours south of Guiying, on brand new roads. The village showed how poor these isolated people are, but also how beautiful and exotic their culture. China hopes tourism can help them hold on to these traditions while lifting themselves out of poverty.

In Kitakyushu, the journalists learned the city’s story of lifting itself out of dire pollution while still maintaining its industries in a unique movement led by women and done with community, government and businesses working together. Now known as the “Kitakyushu Model,” the city’s strategy is being exported around the globe to help newly developing cities avoid the mistakes of its past, and reclaim their own rivers, oceans, air and land from pollution. The journalists visited the environment museum documenting the history of this transition and the Asia Center for Green Growth which is working to export this model. They met with some of the women activists from this movement, met with the deputy mayor, and visited a pilot project to use smart metering to improve efficiency and hydrogen by-products from steel-making for energy. They also visited the iconic Toto, one of Kitakyushu’s most well-known local businesses.

Fukuoka is known as a showcase for “Abenomics” with a progressive mayor trying to instigate many of Abe’s reforms. With tourism becoming an increasingly large part of the economy, the city sees an openness to foreigners as a key to its economic future. The journalists visited the port, which the city has expanded four fold over the past few years to accommodate increasing numbers of cruise ships from Korea and China. They are prioritizing start-ups and encouraging foreigners to come to Japan to start companies with a brand new “start-up visa” initiated in January 2016, and a start-up café which provides English speaking lawyers and other consultants to help foreigners wade through the bureaucracy to set up their businesses. The journalists met the mayor to hear his vision, visited the start-up café and met with the first foreigner visa recipients and other Japanese entrepreneurs. The journalists also appreciated the opportunity to have an informal meeting with working mothers to learn more about the challenges for Abe’s efforts to promote more women in the workforce. 

The Tokyo program was incredibly busy, but provided top to bottom perspectives on Japan’s development from an engagement with the homeless to a meeting with then MP Yuriko Koike, who recently became the first female Governor of Tokyo. The journalists accompanied a local NPO in providing food and services for the homeless and visited a child care center and nursing home to meet with elders who are experimenting with “second life employment” as part of Japan’s efforts to deal with its aging population. They met with Japan’s premier robot scientist and tried out his new “muscle suit” designed to help caregivers with the job of heavy lifting. They engaged with a group of college students who shared their perspectives on the social changes taking place in Japan. High quality academics and analysts also were a highlight of the Tokyo program, including globally recognized experts in energy, social change and poverty. A round table with business leaders provided valuable insights into Japan’s economy and what needs to be done to maintain growth and increase productivity and innovation in the face of population decline and rapid globalization. Finally, engagements with the former MP and now Governor Yuriko Koike, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided valuable access to high level officials.

The 2016 Jefferson Fellows have thus far written, published, or produced 26 stories for print and television that are directly related to their Fellowship experience and contacts. The program provided the journalists with exposure to more than 230 distinct contacts in 6 cities in the form of speakers and interlocutors, reception and networking events and other engagements. They include academics and officials who speak English and can be expert references in future stories; students, working mothers and other “first-hand people-perspectives;” and alumni and other contacts from a wide range of backgrounds who can help facilitate future visits or make connections within their networks for certain stories. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian at Foreign Policy recently used these contacts for a story about women in Japan for which she tapped Yuriko Koike, the MP and new Tokyo Governor as well as one of East-West Center’s alumni, an aspiring female political leader struggling to work her way up the ranks in Japanese politics.

Journalists appreciated the breadth and depth of the program and the value of the program in changing their outlooks and perspectives. One journalist wrote, “Being able to see what is going on in China and Japan with my own eyes and to be able to talk directly with people involved in trying to move on them will allow my reports on these issues specifically and more general stories about these countries to be far more nuanced.” A US journalist felt the program deepened understanding in a way that will help future coverage avoid assumptions and stereotypes, “The Jefferson Fellowship enabled us to really get a feel for the issues of concern of Asia by immersing us in to the cultures of the respective cities we visited while providing us with social, political, and economic insights from experts on a broad range of topics to help us form a 360 degree view on the topics pertaining to the future growth in Asia Pacific.” For another American journalist, it was the first visit to Asia, “[the Fellowship] was an absolute delight. As long as I am a journalist, I’ll draw on the information, impressions and relationships I formed during the trip. I got the overview of the region I was hoping to get—Asia 101. This will let me orient and understand what I learn in the future too. That was the most important thing to me.”

As much as the study tour experience, the journalists also value the engagement with fellow Fellows. These interactions provide learning about countries and topics that aren't even covered in the Fellowship program. One journalist noted, “The most important aspect of the study tour section was that it allowed the fellows to meet each other and understand a little more about the issues in other countries. It can be easy to forget that there are many ways to view a story. For example, I personally did not think of how the South China Sea debate plays out in Taiwan until this program.”


The Jefferson Fellowships are supported by a grant from The Freeman Foundation and by the East-West Center. The 2016 program also was supported by: The Mary Morgan Hewett Fund, Asia New Zealand Foundation, US Embassy Port Moresby, US Embassy Canberra, US Embassy Jakarta, The News International and cost sharing from many media outlets across the Asia Pacific and the US.

Congratulations to the 2016 Jefferson Fellows:

  • Mr. Syed Asif ALI, Assistant Editor, The News International, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Ms. Bethany ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN, Assistant Editor, Foreign Policy Magazine, Washington, DC, USA
  • Ms. Azadeh ANSARI, International News Editor, CNN International, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  • Mr. Nishant DAHIYA, Asia Editor, National Public Radio, Washington, DC, USA
  • Mr. Carter DOUGHERTY, Senior International Economics Writer, International Business Times, New York City, New York, USA
  • Mr. Nirmal GHOSH, Indochina Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Ms. Samantha HAYES, Senior Presenter and Reporter, Newshub, Mediaworks Ltd (TV3), Auckland, New Zealand
  • Ms. Sheradyn HOLDERHEAD, Political Reporter, News Corp Australia – The Advertiser and Sunday Mail, Adelaide, Australia
  • Mr. Yophiandi KURNIAWAN, News Producer, Kompas TV, Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Ms. Kwangyin LIU, Senior Reporter, CommonWealth Magazine, Taipei City, Taiwan
  • Mr. Ishkandar RAZAK, Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Melbourne, Australia
  • Ms. Xiaojing XING, Chief Correspondent, Global Times, Beijing, China
  • Mrs. Helen TARAWA-REI, Senior Journalist/Reporter, The National Newspaper, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Mr. Pradeep THAKUR, Senior Assistant Editor, The Times of India, New Delhi, India

The 2015 Jefferson Fellowships program

Theme:  The South China Sea: Trade, Resources and Conflict

Destinations: Honolulu, Hawaii; Beijing and Hainan Island, China; Manila and Masinloc, Philippines; and Singapore

Dates: May 2-23, 2015

The seas are vitally important to the Asia Pacific region. Countries in the region are heavily dependent on international trade and imported energy, the bulk of which travel by sea. They are the source of much of the protein in the diets of many countries in the region, a demand that is increasing as middle classes grow. They have potentially valuable energy and mineral resources. The South China Sea is one of the world’s most heavily used transit corridors and is the key route for trade as well as the imported energy fueling regional economies. It is estimated that roughly half a billion people live within 100 miles of the coasts of the South China Sea and the seas are potentially rich in fishing and hydrocarbon resources. There have long been disputes over sovereignty, overlapping exclusive economic zones and competing claims, but these tensions have heightened in recent years, creating conflict and an urgent need for regional coordination in the seas. These tensions can hinder needed cooperation on other critical challenges of sustainable management of sea-based resources, protecting the environment, combating criminal activities such as poaching and piracy, and ensuring the stable and efficient freedom of navigation that plays a key role in Asia’s growth and prosperity.

From top: journalists attended a rountable discussion hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Beijing, China; and a forum on the South China Sea hosted by the Philippine goverment, Manila, Philippines

From top: journalists met with fishermen from China and the Philippines; shipping, Singapore Strait

The 2015 Jefferson Fellowships provided journalists with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of these complex issues including the role that oceans play in the prosperity and security of Asia Pacific countries, the legal frameworks that govern the use of the seas, the roles of various countries and organizations in enforcing these rules, the disputes over ownership of maritime territory in the South China Sea and the prospects for the way forward. In Honolulu journalists learned about these issues and the role of the United States from regional experts, US military officials, and presentations by one another. Travel to China and the Philippines provided first hand perspectives from two of the key claimants in South China Sea disputes who are at the center of the first case brought for international arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. Visits to the capital cities as well as local communities bordering the South China Sea explored the importance of the seas to both countries—one a continental rising global power and the other a developing island nation. In Singapore, participants explored the business of trade by sea in a city-state highly dependent on maritime transshipment for its prosperity and one of the gateways to the Malacca Strait, through which almost 50,000 ships carrying half the world's trade and one-third of global oil pass each year. Singapore also offered an opportunity to explore strategies and scenarios for regional cooperation in managing territorial disputes as well as efforts to mitigate piracy and manage congestion in these vital shipping lanes.


The Jefferson Fellowships are supported by a grant from The Freeman Foundation and by the East-West Center. The 2015 program was also generously supported by grant funding from the US Embassy Bangkok, US Embassy Canberra, US Embassy Hanoi, and the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The 2015 Jefferson Fellows were:

  • Ms. Qin CHEN, Reporter, Caixin Media, Beijing, China
  • Dr. Rungthip CHOTNAPALAI, News Anchor/Producer, Thai Television Channel 3, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Mr. William ENGLUND, Assistant Foreign Editor, Washington Post, Washington, DC, United States
  • Mr. Jim GOMEZ, Chief Correspondent, Associated Press, Manila, Philippines
  • Mr. Takuya HIRAGA, Reporter, The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, Japan
  • Mrs. Huong HOANG, Editor, VietNamNet Newspaper, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Ms. Shu-ling KO, Reporter, Kyodo News, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Ms. Gretel C. KOVACH, Military Affairs Reporter, U-T San Diego, San Diego, California, United States
  • Ms. Susan LANNIN, Business Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Ultimo, Australia
  • Mr. Siddhartha MAHANTA, Assistant Editor, Foreign Policy, Washington, DC, United States
  • Mr. Sachin PARASHAR, Assistant Editor – Strategic Affairs, The Times of India, Delhi, India
  • Ms. Ellen READ, National Business Editor, Fairfax Media (NZ), Auckland, New Zealand
  • Mr. Ravi VELLOOR, Associate Editor, The Straits Times, Singapore
  • Ms. Tracy WHOLF, Associate Producer, WNET/PBS NewsHour Weekend, New York, New York, United States
  • Mr. Fitriyan ZAMZAMI, Masrum, Editor/Journalist, Republika Daily Newspaper, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia


Contact Information
Ann Hartman
Seminar Specialist, Seminars
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848-1601  USA
Phone: (808) 944-7619
Fax: (808) 944-7600