The East-West Center Board of Governors on Thursday selected Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum to be the institution’s next president. She will succeed President Richard R. Vuylsteke at the beginning of the new year.

According to a press release from the EWC, Vares-Lum, a former major general in the U.S. Army, is the first woman and first Native Hawaiian to lead the center since it was founded in 1960.

“I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to continue to advance the vision of the East-West Center,” she said in a statement. “The Indo-Pacific region presents many future opportunities and solutions to global issues, and the Center is renowned as an inclusive space for bringing people of diverse histories and cultures together to build regional understanding through the sharing of ideas, perspectives, and solutions for all of our communities.”

Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum
Suzanne Puanani Vares-Lum. EWC

She added: “I truly believe that EWC, and Hawaii, play a unique role in bridging East and West to address the critical issues that will impact our future generations.”

After retiring from the military in April following 34 years of service, Vares-Lum formed a consultancy on Indo-Pacific issues says the press release.

“She is a seasoned speaker and advocate on regional issues; leadership development; and women, peace and security, and has led a number of collaborative initiatives in the Pacific.”

She also serves on the board of the American Red Cross Pacific Islands Region and has served as an advisor to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council.

Born and raised in Wahiawa and today residing in Kaneohe, Vares-Lum earned a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. of education in teaching from University of Hawaii Manoa, and an M.A. of strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

In 2019, she became a national security fellow of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Vuylsteke will be starting a faculty position at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies after his departure from EWC following a five-year term.

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