Alumni Spotlight

Janelle Kuroda (center) with Elizabeth Hansen (ID-2012) Audra Morrow (RI-2012) during Washington Week, 2012 (photo courtesy of Audra Morrow)

We are honored to feature Lieutenant Commander Janelle Kuroda (HI – 1997) in the Alumni Spotlight blog. Janelle is an Alumna of USSYP as well as a three-time Military Mentor serving in 2006, 2007 and 2012. In her path since Washington Week, she has served the United States in many critical roles. We are delighted to share her inspiring story with you. We would note that her interview responses do not reflect those of the U.S. government or the U.S Department of State.

USSYP: By way of introduction, can you tell us about your childhood?

Janelle: I grew up in a close-knit, rural town on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a great experience. There was a strong sense of community and people took care of each other.  I’m still in touch with my high school teachers and classmates today. Although I grew up in a loving family, I quickly witnessed the challenges communities can face. Through a college internship within the local court system, I learned about the prevalence of synthetic drugs, the consequences of drug-related crimes and the destructiveness of domestic violence in my town.

Years later, through my work at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), I was fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with foreign governments to develop programs on drug demand reduction and to empower men and women in law enforcement to address domestic violence. I was proud and honored to help deal with the issues that we often struggle with in our own communities.

USSYP: Where did you attend college? What were your academic and professional highlights?

Janelle: I attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where I studied political science, served as the vice president of the student body and participated in our Model UN Team. I am grateful for the excellent internship opportunities I had at our state legislature and in the district and circuit courts – these were all excellent experiences that prepared me for the rigor of law school at Boston College.

Janelle Kuroda with Lao high school students at a ceremony highlighting the contribution of computers and educational material to the Lao Commission for Drug Control and Supervision as part of a U.S. Department of State INL drug demand reduction program. (March 26, 2015)

USSYP: What is your current professional role? What are your activities in that role?

Janelle: I am a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). In this role, I advance U.S. government foreign policy objectives on combatting corruption in international and regional anticorruption bodies such as the United Nations, the G-7, and G-20. I also manage U.S. foreign assistance in programs that help countries prevent and fight corruption, which is vital to level the playing field for U.S. businesses overseas and to protect U.S. national security.

USSYP: What is the mission of the INL?

Janelle: The INL works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime and illegal drugs, which breed instability abroad. INL programs help countries set up and maintain just and fair systems by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. INL also promotes the establishment and implementation of international standards to combat transnational organized crime, corruption, wildlife trafficking, and other cross-border crimes. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores and help protect U.S. and global economies.

USSYP: What are you involved with outside of your work?

Janelle: Outside of my work at the U.S. Department of State, I serve as a judge advocate (uniformed attorney) in the U.S. Navy Reserve JAG Corps. I am currently assigned to a civil litigation unit at the Washington Navy Yard, and it’s a great way for me to serve our country in another capacity. As a reservist, I have been able to seamlessly support and contribute to the Navy, to include providing legal assistance services to sailors and their families in Italy, and providing ethics advice to commands in Afghanistan and Bahrain.

USSYP: How did USSYP impact your path?

Janelle: USSYP played an important role in my career aspirations and development. I vividly remember Washington Week – it was an incredible way to experience the role of our federal government first-hand through the perspective of our highest public servants. Interacting with members of the armed forces for the first time and meeting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff played a role in my desire to join the military after law school. The remarkable opportunity to hear from U.S. State Department officials piqued my interest in foreign affairs. Today, I’m privileged to work with and among these distinguished individuals, and use the lessons they shared on diplomacy and statecraft in my work at INL.

Over the course of my career, it’s truly been rewarding to be a part of the Washington Week experience for current USSYP delegates through my service as a military mentor, most recently 2012, by hosting a table at the U.S. Department of State luncheon during Washington Week and by participating in the mentoring events organized by the U.S. Senate Youth Alumni Association.

USSYP: Looking back on USSYP, what was most memorable?

Janelle: The entire experience was incredibly uplifting. It was wonderful to meet students from across America and to learn about different perspectives on pressing issues of the day, such as affirmative action and balancing the federal budget. It was also great to see the group evolve during Washington Week. We shared our dreams and goals, and by the end of the week, they seemed to be much more tangible.