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Conducting Complex Research While Supporting Fellow Servicemembers

Profile photo of Vivian

Full Name: Vivian Eng Bendewald
SAIS Program & Expected Graduation: Hopkins Nanjing Center & MAIR 2024
Military Service Status: Veteran, U.S. Air Force

Vivian Eng Bendewald is the Johns Hopkins SAIS Hopkins Nanjing Center 2022-2023 McGovern-Muller Fellow. Vivian currently serves as the president of the Military Affiliated Students of SAIS, formerly known as SAIS VETS. She also sits on the Africa Club board at SAIS. During her time in the Air Force, Vivian was one of the first three female Direct Support Operators. 

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and what drew you to a career in the U.S. military?  

I was born and raised on Long Island in New York. The child of immigrants, I experienced the U.S. from a mixed eastern and western lens and was drawn to military service after a cross-country roadtrip. As a teenager, I took a GreyHound from New York to Portland on my own. Everything and everyone that I encountered on that trip convinced me that this country is an incredible gift and I wanted to dedicate my life to protect and defend it.

Army Second Lieutenant (Active Duty) - RYLEY ENG BENDEWALD, Air Force Staff Sergeant (Veteran) - VIVIAN ENG BENDEWALD, Air Force ROTC Cadet Junior (University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School, Aeronautical Engineering Honors College) - RYKER ENG BENDEWALD

Why did you pick the service branch you joined? 

I chose the Air Force largely because of my Air Force recruiter and the opportunities that I was presented throughout the recruitment process.

For how long did you serve? What did your tour of duties include?

I served four years on active duty and seven years in the reserves. I was an Airborne Crytpolinguist and one of the first three female Direct Support Operators in the history of the Air Force. My duties encompassed military intelligence tasks.

How has your time in the military helped you with your personal growth? 

My military service was incredibly formative due to the phase of life that I was in as well as the educational and experiential opportunities that I was presented with overseas.
With classmates this past Monday, November 7, 2022. After our MASOS exclusive screening of National Geographic's RETROGRADE followed by a live Q&A with the documentary's Emmy Award winning director, Michael Heineman, and Retrograde producer, Caitlin McNally.

What attracted you to SAIS and your program of study? 

The work of Professor Deborah Brautigam and the depth of researching complex international political economics and development initiatives is what attracted me to the SAIS program.  My desire to increase my understanding and abilities as a Chinese speaking analytical scholar was the greatest attraction for me to my program of study at SAIS’ Hopkins Nanjing Center, where I am currently attending virtually from DC.

How has your experience in the military prepared you for your studies and the future?

As a Defense Language Institute graduate, the military prepared me for future studies through developed discipline and time-tested training processes.

My studies have completely changed my understanding of Chinese history, political development, and international relations…

How have your studies at SAIS changed your perspective?

My studies have completely changed my understanding of Chinese history, political development, and international relations as known in China in comparison to the U.S. perspective.

What are you most passionate about and what do you plan to use your degree to achieve? 

I am most passionate about creating sustainable development as a countermeasure to terrorism. I plan to use my SAIS degree to work in a field where quantitative and qualitative research will help execute lasting programs that will achieve security around the globe through collaborative development and international trade

Enjoyed reading Vivian's experience? Learn more about our Master of Arts in International Relations.

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