James Kellaher ’14 honed his communications, critical thinking and negotiating skills when he served as Le Moyne’s inaugural delegate to the Student Conference on United States Affairs (SCUSA). Held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, SCUSA is the most prestigious event of its kind. Each year approximately 200 undergraduates from over 100 colleges and universities attend the conference, where they debate and formulate solutions to significant national and global challenges while working alongside one scholar and one policy maker.
The political science major said it was “the experience of a lifetime.”
The theme of this year’s conference was “Navigating Demographic Flows: Populations, Power, and Policy.” Students considered trends across regions and topics, and how U.S. policy might manage these trends to advance American interests. Kellaher’s group focused on pensions and palliative care, primarily looking at the challenge of maintaining the solvency on Social Security. It gave Kellaher the opportunity to interact with people from different parts of the world as, in addition to students from the United States, he worked with young men and women from Canada, Ireland and Hong Kong. Beyond that, the conference also taught Kellaher about “the value of compromise, and how critical it is in moving forward.” He emphasized that while the members of his team spanned the ideological spectrum, they were ultimately able to create a proposal that incorporated all of their ideas.
“It was great to see our work come together,” he said.
During the conference, Kellaher and his peers also gained valuable experience working in a fast-paced environment, and learned from top scholars and policy makers, including former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. Beyond that, they saw the nation's oldest military academy. Participants lived in the cadet barracks, immersing themselves in life at West Point. For Kellaher, that was one of the most memorable aspects of the conference.
“The most rewarding part of the experience was learning more about the military and connecting with military and civilian leadership,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and the incredible work that they do.”
A graduate of Fordham Prep in New York City, Kellaher was chiefly drawn to Le Moyne because of its small class sizes and rigorous academics. He said that his time on the Heights has also enabled him to more fully practice his Catholic faith, and to meet people who think differently from him. Following his graduation from Le Moyne, he plans to join the workforce for a few years, perhaps as a police officer, before entering the seminary.
“No matter what I do in the future, I know that all of my Le Moyne experiences, including my time at the SCUSA, will benefit me,” he said.