Motivated to diplomacy, Wong earns Hansen Leadership Institute fellowship

by Matt Overing

Jason Wong '24

Throughout his college career, Grissom Scholar Jason Wong has looked for collaborative leadership opportunities — ways he can build bridges and make his world a better place. Now, he’s getting to hone those skills on a far larger scale. 

Wong, a member of the class of 2024, was recently named a Hansen Leadership Institute (HLI) fellow, where he will join with individuals from across the world to learn about international cooperation, conflict resolution and more.  

He is one of five fellows representing the United States in the HLI program. Last year, he was named to the inaugural cohort of John Lewis Scholar and Fellows — a program also focused on teaching leaders and learning from some of the great changemakers of history.

“I’ve always wanted to do something with leadership in the hopes of making small, communal changes,” Wong said. “From my time as a John Lewis Scholar, it helped me understand the importance of family and of community … I was really drawn to HLI because I'll have the opportunity to meet with people from across the world. 

“To have this network of people internationally who also want to change the world — I think it's a great step for me to share what I hope to do, and also work with like-minded people.”

Climate change is a major motivation for Wong, a native of Brooklyn, New York.

“Socio-economic status affects how much you are impacted by pollution,” Wong said. “Oftentimes, lower-income areas are affected more. I’m from a lower-income neighborhood ... I want to be a part of the history of change — someone who is doing their best to make a better life for everyone else.”

The Centre College community played a key role in Wong’s development as well: He appreciated Robert Schalkoff’s aid as the director of the office of fellowships, and he mentioned Visiting Professor of Anthropology Jeff Shenton as instrumental to his application.

“When I found out about the program, it was pretty close to the deadline,” Wong said. “What I love about Centre is being able to develop close relationships with professors. I didn’t even give (Shenton) a week to write a letter of recommendation, and he came through for me.”

Wong also noted how he’s been able to learn more about his passions at Centre. As an international studies and Chinese major, he has learned more about global issues and challenges.

“I chose economics as a track, because a lot of what I hope to do in the future is with public policy,” he said. “I love having professors here who are well-versed in different things. It's helped me be able to pick classes that I want and have professors that can help guide my stance and what I'm passionate about.” 

Wong will spend three intensive weeks in public speaking courses to go with cooperation trials in different settings. But he hopes that his experiences — from being a first-generation student with Chinese parents to his John Lewis fellowship and time at Centre — will help him be a valuable cohort member with HLI. 

“I'm excited to meet a cohort, meet leaders from around the world and learn more about United States politics and what we can do,” Wong continued. “One of my biggest aspirations is to be a U.S. ambassador — that's long-dream-future. I think this is a good start to be able to have that step, reach out and to talk to people globally. It's only when you build bridges can you really create change.”