Conor Simons ’16
“Middlebury teaches you to think critically, creatively, and independently. The military teaches you how to harness those capacities with discipline, hard work, and toughness.”
Why did you decide to pursue national service and the military?
I joined the Army for three reasons. The military offered an unparalleled right-out-of-college professional experience. I wanted to serve my country. And I wanted to do it with my brother, who was admitted to the Naval Academy the same year I graduated Middlebury.
How did your Middlebury liberal arts education factor into the mindset, perspectives, approach you took to your military service?
As an associate dean of the Arabic program at the Defense Language Institute, I was often asked to mediate conflicts between civilian faculty members. Most of our faculty members were native Arabic speakers, and it was inevitable that real-world divisions—nationality, religion, ethnicity, dialect, race, gender—crept into these disputes. Middlebury prepared me well for the cross-cultural communication and understanding necessary to navigate these difficult conversations.
Middlebury has an ethic of service to a community. What do you want to tell others about serving your community/your country through military service?
I think the military and Middlebury complement each other in so many ways. Middlebury teaches you to think critically, creatively, and independently. The military teaches you how to harness those capacities with discipline, hard work, and toughness. I think that’s a pretty dangerous combination.
What comes next for you?
I graduated from Harvard Law School in May 2023 and will be clerking for a federal judge on the First Circuit next year. I don’t know where my career will take me after the clerkship, but I’d love to continue a career of government service—this time as a lawyer.
What advice would you give to others who may be considering military service?
Do it! You can’t even conceive of all the personal and professional benefits military service will bring. The military—the country—needs smart, independent, and creative service members who want to change the world. It needs people like you.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’m always happy to connect with anyone from Middlebury interested in the military. When I graduated in 2016, it was an exceptionally rare route to take. But it was tremendously beneficial for me, and I’m happy to talk to anyone about it.