Undergraduate Profile: Estey Chen

Submitted by Eric W. Johnson on
Estey Chen

We recently caught up with graduating senior Estey Chen to talk about her future plans and about the role that history has played in her academic journey.

Chen, a native of Mercer Island, Washington, is a history and political science major who has compiled a standout record within the department. Over the years, she has received a number of grants and awards, including the Maurice D. and Lois M. Schwartz Scholarship, the Larry Lee Sleizer Endowed Scholarship, and most notably the Thomas M. Power Endowed Paper Prize for her senior thesis, titled “Cracks in the Bandung Spirit: The 1962 Sino-Indian War and Decline of Third World Solidarity” (supervised by Professor Anand Yang). 

Her talents have likewise been recognized at the university level and beyond. Her many honors have included a prestigious Boren study-abroad scholarship and a U.S. Critical Language Scholarship for the study of Indonesian. She was also selected as a research intern with the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. At the CSIS, Chen contributed articles on Myanmar, privatized vaccine schemes, and refugee protection in Southeast Asia, all published in The Diplomat magazine.

Estey Chen

Chen’s long-term goal is to chart a career in public service, one that will give her opportunities to enact meaningful change in the institutions that shape human possibilities, both at home and abroad. She expects this career will be deeply engaged with foreign policy, perhaps at the State Department, and will focus on Asia. As she puts it, “Foreign policy should uplift people, rather than oppress them,” and she wants to be a part of realizing that vision.

For Chen, these ambitions for the future are very much tied up in the study of the past. Her interest in history was sparked from her very first quarter at UW, when she took a course on race, gender, and class in Latin America and the Caribbean with Professor Ileana Rodriguez-Silva. Another milestone in her academic career came when she took History of the Cold War with Dr. Kyle Haddad-Fonda. This class played a pivotal role in crystalizing her intellectual interest in Indonesia. She recalls it as a “mind-changing” experience, making particular note of how the lecture on the 1955 Badung Conference reoriented her views on the history of the world’s developing nations.

In the Department of History, Chen found both intellectual sustenance and academic support. She has come to see the study of history as offering crucial value in understanding current affairs. And she praises the department’s advising team, Tracy Maschman Morrissey and Shannon Vacek, for their warmth, care, and tireless advocacy for student success.

Estey Chen clearly has the tools and character to succeed. We look forward to seeing what she accomplishes as she takes her UW degree and historical training out into the world.