CMC students gain insights into Asia with Keck Center trip

CMC students gain insights into Asia with Keck Center trip.

Photos Courtesy of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies

Eight Claremont McKenna College students explored Taipei and Singapore, gaining a deeper understanding of Asia, thanks to an opportunity sponsored by CMC’s Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies, and the International Journalism Lab.

Led by CMC Professors Minxin Pei and Hilary Appel, the group met with the region’s top journalists, as well as scholars and policymakers. They offered powerful insights into topics ranging from Taiwan’s domestic policies to how Southeast Asian countries are positioning themselves in relation to China and the West. They also discussed how they are meeting security and environmental challenges.

CMC students gain insights into Asia with Keck Center trip.


“I think Asia will be important for these students in their future careers,” Appel said, noting that the trip built upon work done with Keck’s Asia Experts Forum, a student publication funded by the International Journalism Lab and the Ho Family Foundation. “Some of our students were clearly interested in Asia before this and for some, this trip expanded their regional area of interest.”

In advance of their trip, students completed a set of readings to prepare for their meetings with journalists and political experts such as leading economic historian and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, James Crabtree, who led a salon in Singapore, “Asia in the Age of Polycrisis.”

“Our students were so well-prepared,” Appel said. “They really asked great questions and shared valuable insights.”

For Samuel Johnson-Saeger ’26, an International Relations and Economics dual major, the trip provided “countless intellectual and cultural learning experiences. It was my first time in Asia. From visiting temples and memorials to experiencing Taiwanese and Singaporean cuisine, I got to explore the area,” he said. “To hear from leading reporters (who cover China) for several major global news outlets, to meeting with Chairman David Lee of the Straits Exchange Foundation (a former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Taiwan), it was truly an opportunity to experience international relations outside of the classroom.”

Johnson-Saeger added that the one-on-one exchanges with policy experts built upon what he is learning in his classrooms at CMC. “For example, we discussed how Chinese international development policy and semiconductor supply chains impact Asia-Pacific resilience with Taiwanese political analyst, Dr. Shirley Lin, which relates to the discussions about technological diffusion in my Economic Growth class at CMC with Economics Professor Ricardo Fernholz.”

CMC students gain insights into Asia with Keck Center trip.


Tapping into the CMC alumni network on their first day in Taipei, Appel, Johnson-Saeger, Adam Terenyi ’25, and Livia Hughson ’25, were escorted throughout the city by Lery Hiciano ’20, who is currently pursuing a Master's degree at National Chengchi University.

“We spent several hours in the Maokong Tea District, which has a view of the entire city. It was a great opportunity to relax after the long flight and simply enjoy the cultural experience of sipping Oolong and trying a variety of sweet treats like Mung Bean Cakes,” said Johnson-Saeger.

“Most importantly, though, the trip was an opportunity to step outside of the classroom and experience international relations firsthand, positioning myself in a context where I got to watch how policy was shaped and news stories decided upon, rather than looking back at them in retrospect,” he said.

For Appel, it was gratifying to learn that the CMC students who took part in the trip were inspired to pursue a new set of professional paths. “The trip exposed our students to fulfilling and meaningful career options,” she said. “It really opened their eyes.”

Anne Bergmann


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