Graduate Student Conference Brings Together Country’s Emerging Scholars

Organized by graduate students Connor Ewing and Robert Shaffer, earlier this month the Department of Government hosted a graduate conference in public law, a two-day conference that brought together leading emerging scholars from around the country. Graduate student-driven and national in scope, the conference was an unprecedented event.

In addition to the department’s own students, including Ewing and Shaffer, Alex Hudson, Anthony Ives, Margaret Moslander, Henry Pascoe, Thomas Bell, and Christina Noriega, the conference drew students from Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Washington University, Notre Dame, UW-Madison, Columbia, Toronto, Michigan, UC-Berkeley, UC-San Diego, the Claremont Graduate University, and FLASCO in Mexico.

Faculty discussants included Gary Jacobsohn, Zach Elkins, H.W. Perry, Jeff Tulis, Dan Brinks, Jeffrey Abramson, Sandy Levinson, Paula Newberg, and Lawrence Sager. Mariah Zeisberg, from the University of Michigan, delivered the keynote address.

Graduate Student Public Law Conference, Fall 2014

Connor Ewing, Gary Jacobsohn, and Robert Shaffer (left to right) talk during the Graduate Conference in Public Law, held at The University of Texas at Austin, October 30-November 1, 2014.

Thematically, the conference was noteworthy for the breadth of contributions and the diversity of disciplines from which participants came, spanning an array of academic departments and law schools. The conference bridged the intersection of political science and law, and public policy too. Bridging interdisciplinary gaps was a motivating factor behind the conference. Shaffer and Ewing, in 2013, launched a public law lunch series with a goal of strengthening connections between the Government Department, Law School, and LBJ School of Public Affairs, and the conference was part of expanding those efforts and extending their reach outside of the university.

The conference also brought together students and faculty approaching the law from different perspectives. “One of the exciting parts of the conference is that we could bring theory- and empirically-oriented people together onto the same panels, and get them into direct dialogue with one another,” Shaffer said.