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An Ex-Soldier Writes

Publication Date: 
January 10, 2011
The New York Times - At War Blog
Tim Hsia

The Stanford Law School, Professor Pamela Karlan, and Dean Larry Kramer are all mentioned in the following reflection by a current law student and former Army captain, Tim Hsia. Here is the story:

Tim Hsia was the first soldier to contribute to the At War blog, after a chance meeting with the New York Times correspondent Stephen Farrell in 2008 in the Iraqi province of Diyala. A United States Army infantry captain, he is now studying law in California. Read other contributions to ‘A Soldier Writes’ here.

When I left active duty to start law school I thought that much of what I had learned in the military would not be applicable to being a student again. I was wrong; many of the skills I learned in the military, like professionalism and discipline, are also essential in an academic environment.

On the first day of orientation, after a warm welcome speech by Larry D. Kramer, the dean of Stanford Law School, Prof. Pam Karlan lectured the new students on professionalism after seeing several of them sending text messages and checking their smartphones during the dean’s speech.

Her lecture immediately quieted the room and for a brief second, I flashed back to West Point and the memory of countless speeches by Army colonels addressed to cadets concerning the importance of professionalism in the military.

In many ways, Stanford Law School reminds me of West Point. My classmates are bright, motivated and diverse. The professors are passionate about what they teach. The class sizes are small and class discussions are engaging and thought provoking. Both schools are infused with a sense of public service. The majority of my classmates are involved in pro bono work and there are numerous student-driven charity campaigns. Both schools pride themselves beyond their academics and emphasize the importance of being a leader and an engaged professional.


For a place that has a tree as a mascot, my initial thoughts were that Stanford would be the polar opposite of the military, and completely detached from it. During the school year, I attended a panel on the subject of the volunteer army.

The panel discussed the pros and cons of an all-volunteer force versus conscription. From listening to the debate among the speakers and audience, I sensed a genuine concern over the existing divide between the military and the Stanford community.

As the first quarter ended, I realized that my initial assessment was a hasty and unfounded one. The Stanford campus has been receptive to military events and to student-veteran organizations. For example, this past quarter my classmates started up the Stanford Law School Veterans Organization with generous support from the school. Beyond the law school, there are many veterans on campus at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Hoover Institution; and Center for International Security and Cooperation, and there has been a gift package drive for soldiers in Afghanistan.

There is also a good chance that Stanford will open its doors to R.O.T.C. again, as a faculty committee is currently debating the issue.