Leading by Example - Dahlia Morrone

Windward Communications

Of the many values instilled in students throughout their Windward careers, the lesson that results are achieved through hard work and time is chief among them. For Dahlia Morrone, this belief is more than educational encouragement—it’s a real promise gained from first-hand experience.

In February of 2023, Dahlia, Windward’s Associate Director of the Collegiate Division and Director of the Senior Capstone Program, had her work published in the book Asian Military Evolutions: Civil-Military Relations in Asia. Her chapter—”Business as Usual despite Reform: The Indonesian Military under Jokowi”—represented not only the culmination of years of work as a political historian of modern Southeast Asia, but also a full-circle moment that first began right at Windward.

In 2018, when she was teaching the History Capstone, Dahlia attended and presented at a conference in Hong Kong as part of the School’s professional development initiative. Following the conference, Dahlia and some of her fellow panelists were contacted by the panel organizers to discuss what would eventually become Asian Military Evolutions. For Dahlia, the book provided her the opportunity to really dive into her chosen area of expertise. Looking at the Indonesian military during the administration of current president Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, Dahlia’s chapter argues that the more things change, the more things stay the same. By showing the Indonesia that was, Dahlia was able to highlight how the power structure has continued to exist relatively unchallenged due to the military’s murky triangle of protection, perception, and control.

This warts-and-all approach to history is one Dahlia is honored to be able to share not only in her academic work, but also in the classroom. Now as the instructor for the Junior course Honors History: The U.S. in the World, Dahlia shares her expertise with students, giving them a hands-on look at the type of scholarly assignments they might find at the next level. Her research helps students explore the foreign relations of the United States while also considering familiar historical events from unfamiliar perspectives. The freedom to introduce new ways of teaching and learning is something Dahlia doesn’t take for granted. “Bringing my knowledge and expertise into the classroom, and having the flexibility to do it—there’s no one saying ‘You have to do it this way or you can’t do it your way.’ Instead it’s ‘Great, you’re an expert’,” Dahlia shared. “I feel like we, as teachers, there's this great trust in us.”

That trust is something Dahlia shares with her students as well. Over the course of her five year path to publication, Dahlia allowed her capstone students insight into the long, painstaking process of writing a scholarly work. From sharing drafts to holding peer reviews, Dahlia made sure that her students witnessed her practicing what she preached. “This process is years long,” said Dahlia. “By sharing with my students, it showed them that history looks like this and it takes time and it takes revision and it takes iteration. And that's what I'm asking you to do. I'm not asking you to do something that I don't have to do myself.” That lesson is one Dahlia became well-versed in over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the moment of living history forced her to update her chapter yet again to reflect the impact coronavirus had on military dominance in Indonesia..

While history never ends, Dahlia’s work on her chapter eventually did. The editing and publication process allowed her to share yet another perspective to her interested students. “I was very lucky that the two scholars who were the editors of the volume, they were so great to work with,” said Dahlia. “I had only met them once in-person in Hong Kong where we all presented on that panel, and then I never saw them again. But we communicated through email, and there’s such a global element in this book, the authors came from all over. It’s pretty neat to think that you're part of something, that you're connected to all these other people who you've never even met. But then it produces something like this.”

While she’s happy to finally have her work out in the world, Dahlia is equally as happy that her students got to witness the work that went into it along the way, showing that the path to the finish line is not always a straight one. “I think if there’s one thing we want to teach our students, it’s to be resilient, and just to realize, even when there are setbacks or even when there are roadblocks or hiccups, be resilient and then something cool comes of it. Absolutely.”

Asian Military Evolutions: Civil-Military Relations in Asia was edited by Alan Chong and Nicole Jenne and is available now.