Ms. Vares-Lum joined the BOH Board in 2023. As a retired Major General with 34 years of service, Ms. Vares-Lum has held key roles addressing priority national security challenges in the region. She brings decades of executive leadership and planning experience, culminating in over five years serving with and advising the most senior officials at US Indo-Pacific Command, where she cultivated and maintained key relationships with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
Ms. Vares-Lum took office as President of the East-West Center in January 2022. She is the first woman and Native Hawaiian to be chosen for this role since the Center’s establishment in 1960. In 2022, she launched a new strategic plan that advances the Center’s mission to promote understanding and relationships among people and nations of the United States, Asia, and Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.
After to her retirement and prior to her position at East-West Center, she formed Vares-Lum Indo-Pacific Consulting, LLC to provide consulting and advising on regional issues. She is an advocate for education and building bridges across the Indo-Pacific and has led collaborative initiatives in the region.
As a community leader, Ms. Vares-Lum serves on a variety of non-profit boards, including the American Red Cross Pacific Islands Region, Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, and the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research. She is a current member of the U.S.-Japan Council and has also served on committees that promote Hawai.i’s economic diversification, workforce development, and community dialogues on issues regarding land and water.
She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism in 1989 and her Master of Education in Teaching in 1996 from the University of Hawai.i at Manoa. As a graduate of the US Army War College, she earned a Master of Strategic Studies degree in 2011. In 2019, she became a National Security Fellow of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is also an alumna of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.
In addition to her military and community awards, she is the recipient of the 2023 Girl Scouts of Hawaii Women of Distinction Award and a 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Awardee.