UMass Amherst Department of Political Science

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Halloran '13 Explores Civil-Military Relations at US Affairs Conference

Halloran '13 Explores Civil-Military Relations at  US Affairs Conference

student news

2012-12-14

“There is a cliché that you will not always remember what you learn while you were in college, but instead will remember the people you met,” says Daniel Halloran '13. After being selected to attend the Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA) at West Point this November, that cliché is more applicable than ever.

“I will remember bunking in the barracks with three sophomores (and my hosts), listening to their crazy stories about their summer training,” he says. “The hospitality I received from West Point was unmatchable, but moreso, the fellow delegates, speakers, and moderators I met provided me with some of the most interesting and thought-provoking conversations I have ever had.”

SCUSA is an annual conference which brings together civilian and military college students, professors, and other experts on US affairs to discuss a variety of political issues. Attendees are divided into discussion groups so they can focus on specific areas of expertise and interests. This year’s focus was assuring accountability and assessing American priorities in an age of austerity.

"I was placed on the 'costless wars: all volunteer force, civilian-military relations, and the use of drones' discussion table," said Halloran. "My table had delegates from all over the US, Canada, Germany, Spain and England...The diversity of participants meant everyone had different areas of expertise regarding the discussion topic."

After discussions and research, all participants were asked to draft a policy proposal. "Proposals that come out of the conference have, in years past, made their way high up in the chain of command in the army and have been cited in Congress," Halloran notes. "One was even cited by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."

Halloran’s group tackled the issue of how civilians can hold the military more accountable. Although the discussions were diverse, “One thing I learned and which all other delegates agreed upon was that the U.S. can no longer act in the short term,” he says. “A Band-Aid approach can no longer be taken in U.S. foreign or domestic policy.”

Beyond reflecting on US affairs intellectually, the conference also gave Halloran a broader perspective on military-service. “I gained the utmost respect for all the cadets that are training at the university and a profound sense of gratitude for those that serve,” he says. “After seeing and temporarily living  like them, with a few liberties  given up, I can only express pure gratitude.”

All in all, Halloran says the conference blew him away: “The keynote panel was a fantastic opening and the weapons display was more fun than it should have been; I had a beaming smile holding deadly weapons,” he said. He was even able to speak with Dr. Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower and Chair of the Eisenhower Institute. “Please, please, please promote this conference even more next year,” he says “it was phenomenal!”

In some ways, the conference and what he learned there are reflections of the opportunities and experiences he has found at UMass in general: “Going through the college search, I thought that UMass would give me my most cost-effective education,” he reflects. “But it has been so much more. I have access to just about anything that sparks my interest here, and I never would have those opportunities at a smaller school.”

For instance, Halloran is currently participating in the Department’s Undergraduate Research Engagement Program, and working one-on-one with Professor Ray La Raja to examine campaign finance laws. He has also had the opportunity to work with Professor Michael Hannahan through the UMass Civic Initiative and participate in programs that bring Pakistani students to campus to enable cross-country dialogue about policy.

After graduating in May, Halloran hopes to teach English in Hangzhou, China. However, he is also considering some sort of military service or starting a career in state or Federal government. With several months before graduation, and a whole semester of new classes, research, and opportunities to explore, the possibilities seem endless! 

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