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SAIS Foresight Event Highlights Southeast Asia’s Role in Global Issues

January 12, 2024

With generous support from an alum donor, Johns Hopkins SAIS launched SAIS Foresight in 2017—as an annual forum for leaders in academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations to discuss pressing issues in international affairs.

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic interrupted the series after the 2019 meeting, but SAIS Foresight was relaunched on January 12, 2024, with an event in Singapore that explored the political and economic trends in southeast Asia and the challenges and opportunities that countries in the region face in today’s international climate.

The overarching topic of the January 2024 event, held at JW Marriott Singapore South Beach, was “Navigating Geopolitical Crossroads: Insights on Southeast Asia’s Role.”

Speakers discussed geopolitical dynamics affecting the Singapore-United States relationship, opportunities for regional cooperation, lessons learned from the global pandemic, and economic integration and regional policies, particularly as related to trade and public health. Speakers also shared their perspectives on the role of policymakers, scholars, industry leaders and rising leaders in shaping the future of the Southeast Asia region and its impact around the world.

More than 80 people attended the relaunch gathering in Singapore, among them SAIS alumni from around Asia, Johns Hopkins University alumni based in Singapore, current and prospective students, alumni of the U.S.-ASEAN Institute for Rising Leaders, as well as members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

Also in attendance were SAIS Dean James Steinberg, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Chiedo Nwankwor, Associate Dean for Development and Alumni Relations Khadija Hill, and Director of Constituent Engagement Kasia Batorski.

In his opening remarks, Dean Steinberg shared the latest updates from SAIS, including the move in August 2023 to the school’s new home in Washington, D.C.’s iconic Pennsylvania Avenue, the launching of the U.S.-ASEAN Institute for Rising Leaders program, and the appointment of a new rector for SAIS Europe, who was subsequently inaugurated in Bologna, Italy on January 31. The dean also discussed his recent visit to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) in China, which opened in 1986 as a partnership between Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University.

The event’s keynote speech was delivered by Chan Heng Chee, ambassador-at-large in Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and professor at the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities in the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Previously, she served as Singapore’s ambassador to the United States and permanent representative to the United Nations. Following the ambassador’s keynote remarks, she joined Dean Steinberg in a fireside chat that focused on southeast Asia’s role on the world stage, priorities for the United States and Singapore relationship, and geopolitical challenges facing the region today.

Next, Vice Dean Chiedo Nwankwor introduced the three SAIS students who gave presentations at the forum: Yulin Han, MAIR ’24; Julia Nguyen, MAIR ’24; and Tongying Zhao, Master of Science in Public Health/MAIR ’24. The students discussed the capstone project they are conducting in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia, and the early findings of their research on digital financing for women entrepreneurs—which indicate that through digitally inclusive policymaking, Southeast Asian nations can build resilient economies capable of adapting to geopolitical uncertainties.

The Singapore gathering also had a panel discussion that featured Dean Steinberg and two other participants: Hsien-Hsien Lei, chief executive officer of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, who earned a PhD in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University in 1998 and serves on the Advisory Board of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Brian McFeeters, who graduated from SAIS in 1990, formerly served as U.S. ambassador to Malaysia and is now a senior vice president at U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

SAIS Foresight 2024 ended with a celebratory cocktail reception that offered networking opportunities for all participants. The annual event will return to Singapore in 2025.

Alumni Post Reception
Amb Chan and Dean Steinberg
Dean Nwankwor
Student Presentation