PSIA Alum regards his degree and the program as a passport for opportunities.
UNG PSIA alum, Chris Conowal, has achieved success in the military, in academics, and now in private practice as an attorney. In this article, Conowal describes how the PSIA program shaped these experiences.
Dr. Chris Kroh interviewed Chris.
What have you been doing since you graduated from UNG?
Chris Conowal: “Since graduating from UNG, I attended law school and began working as a mediator until I became a licensed attorney. I opened a law practice with a concentration on trial advocacy. My most important accomplishments, however, have been raising a family. My wife and I have five boys, one of whom now attends UNG and plans to be a history teacher and football coach.”
Why did you decide to pursue a PSIA degree at UNG?
Conowal: “I was inspired by my father’s passion for politics at an early age. After leaving two tours of duty in the military (where political activism is considerably limited) my desire to become involved in politics was renewed as I considered a major. Although my ultimate goal was to attend law school, I wanted my undergraduate degree to be useful in that pursuit. Choosing a political science, pre-law degree at UNG proved to be a very good choice in that regard.”
Could you discuss your experience as a former PSSA President? How did that experience shape your time at UNG and help prepare you for challenges and opportunities after graduation?
Conowal: “I served as PSSA President during a very exciting time at UNG. The campus was just beginning its transformation from North Georgia College and State University to the University of North Georgia. It was also a very troubling time in our nation’s history. I began attending in the wake of the September 11th attacks. During my studies, I was recalled to service and joined many of my classmates on active duty. My experiences at UNG as a student, and later as the PSSA President, certainly prepared me for military service and later during law school. Having served in this leadership role, I was prepared to assume similar roles both in the military and as a partner in a law firm.”
Could you discuss your participation in the “Then and Now” series featuring former majors? Do you think this program has helped to demonstrate how PSIA graduates maintain strong ties to the program and to each other?
Conowal: “I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to be invited to participate in the series. I would encourage you to continue to follow UNG grads as a means to show students where a PSIA degree can lead. I couldn’t agree more with the notion that graduates maintain strong ties to the program and the university as the results of your efforts. Keep up the great work! “
What PSIA courses and/or opportunities for involvement did you have at UNG that were beneficial to you as a student and in your subsequent career?
Conowal: “While attending UNG, I was selected as a Fellow for the Study of the Presidency. I regard this as one of the most memorable experiences during my time at UNG. As a Fellow, I travelled to Washington, D.C. on two occasions and joined fellows from all over the country. There were fellows from Harvard, Yale, and other very prestigious schools. It was an honor to represent UNG as being among these very distinguished schools. The highlight, however, was meeting the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor. We were afforded a private audience with Justice O’Connor and I was able to speak with her personally about her experiences. Needless to say, gaining wisdom and advice from a Justice of the United States Supreme Court was invaluable!”
Were there any new perspectives or new ways of thinking you learned from your classes at UNG that provided you with skills that you continue to utilize)?
Conowal: “Without question, my classes at UNG prepared me for both the boardroom and the courtroom. My college assignments often involved research and persuasive writing, which is at the heart of my work as an attorney. Especially helpful, however, was presenting my results before my professor and a classroom of peers–a perfect precursor for court!”
To what extent did your experience in the Navy help prepare you for political science and other classes at UNG?
Conowal: “My Navy experiences certainly prepared me for the rigors of college life. Being prepared, punctual and persistent are attributes of every member of the armed forces. Having these skills engrained before beginning my journey to an undergraduate undoubtedly prepared me for success.”
What would be your advice to students who are in the PSIA program or who are thinking about a PSIA degree?
Conowal: “I would advise students that obtaining a degree in political science opens one to a world of possibilities. And when I use the word “world” I mean that literally. Whether that entails becoming an attorney and studying international law, or pursuing a career in politics, the PSIA degree can take you anywhere!”
Chris Conowal (04) served as PSSA president in fall 2003. Earlier this year, Chris visited UNG for the PSSA’s 25th anniversary celebration. The event was covered by UNG news (see link below):