Zachary Talor Connolly
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Brockton, MA
"I've enjoyed my time vastly here at UMD and I attribute that to being involved and staying busy."
Originally I wanted to go to a private school—I had in mind one on Long Island and one in Washington, D.C. However, I could not afford either university. I earned the Adams Scholarship and after research I discovered that UMass Dartmouth has a great political science program at an affordable price.
I visited the campus in April of my senior year in high school. I was able to meet some political science professors as well as Michael Baum, the department chair. His youth and enthusiasm brought me to UMD. Professor Baum's enthusiasm for politics was infectious!
I've had the opportunity to be a resident assistant and serve on executive boards of various clubs. I traveled to New York City to participate in the National Model UN Conference as a member of UMD Model UN.
However, the most important and influential opportunity I have had at UMD was studying abroad in Portugal for a month in the summer. I was living in Lisbon, with fellow UMD students, earning 6 credits via two political science classes. The courses were taught by UMass Dartmouth professor Michael Baum as well as Lisbon professor Antonio Costa-Pinto. We had multiple guest lectures and trips all over Portugal.
We became immersed in the culture. All of us students felt like family after just one night. After visiting the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, I learned what I want to do in life.
Prof. Brian Williams is my favorite professor ever. I took two of Prof. Williams' courses: Empires of Central Asia, which focuses on Afghanistan's elaborate history, and History of Terrorism in the Middle East.
In my opinion, Prof. Williams is the living Indiana Jones. He has worked for the CIA and Scotland Yard, has briefed the military of Afghanistan, lived with Dostum—an Uzbek warlord who traces his lineage to Genghis Khan—and has testified on terrorism cases. His extreme love and passion for Central Asian and Middle Eastern history makes the hundreds of pages of reading for class worthwhile.
I could listen to Prof. Williams speak for hours. I know so much now about the history of that region because he made me care to remember. Everyone, regardless of their major, will not regret taking a class with Prof. Williams. He is the cream of the crop.
GET INVOLVED! I cannot say it enough. Some students only attend their classes and go home every weekend, then they complain that there's nothing to do on campus. Nine times out of ten, that student is not involved.
I became a resident assistant my sophomore year; a senior resident assistant my junior, senior and super senior years; involved in MacGyver Experience improv comedy since freshman year; and an executive board member of National Society of Leadership and Success, Model United Nations, and Student Alumni Association.
I've also studied abroad in Portugal, attended and presented in the BACHA RA Conference, and received various awards for my achievements as an RA and a student leader, including Pillar of the Community.
It sounds like a lot, but it is all manageable. I've enjoyed my time vastly here at UMD and I attribute that to being involved and staying busy.