Daniel Schmoll (BEc/LLB (Hons) ’21) achieved a lot during his studies at The Australian National University (ANU). Not only did he complete a Bachelor of Economics and Laws (Honours), he immersed himself in the ANU Volunteering Society as its vice president and ANU Orchestra as a clarinettist. He also excelled in the National Scholars Program and pursued meaningful clerkships and placements at law firms and Federal Government departments.
However, one of his proudest achievements was realised in July 2021 when he was named a 2021 recipient of the University Medal in recognition of his exceptional academic performance. In this Q&A, Daniel reflects on his experience at ANU and how it facilitated his academic, personal and professional growth.
1) How did you find out you had won the University Medal and what does it mean to you?
I found out I had won a University Medal by email while I was working from home. I was just about to dial into a rather long meeting, and I had to walk away from my computer and privately celebrate for a few minutes before I could go back to work.
Being awarded the University Medal has been quite the surprise. To me, my studies have never been about winning prizes or the likes, but it has certainly meant a lot to be recognised by the University for my hard work and all the long hours spent doing readings and practice exams over the years.
2) Coming from Sydney, what led you to choose ANU?
I think the story of why I chose ANU would be shared by many who have moved interstate to study and live in Canberra. After high school, I wanted an opportunity to learn how to live independently and forge my own way. I wanted to try something new, and I saw that the lifestyle I would have in Canberra would be refreshing and very different from my experiences in Sydney. ANU was able to provide all these things and was the perfect choice for me.
3) A love for language inspired you to study law. Can you share more about how one passion led to the other?
I’ve always been a big reader, and even contemplated being a writer. I think my interest in the English language and how it can be used and interpreted in different ways was the origin of my passion for law – after all, law is all about words and how they can be given meaning in order to pursue some social policy. I find it immensely fascinating.
4) Beyond your economics and law degree, what has been one of the biggest life lessons you’ve gained from ANU?
One of the biggest life lessons that my time at university has taught me is that progress is not always linear, and may be slower and less obvious than you might expect. There have been many times over the last few years when I have felt my progress in a certain area slow down considerably, or even go backwards. As someone who focuses on continuous improvement, I found these times to be extremely disheartening. I still struggle to remind myself that this is a natural part of the learning process, and that resilience in the face of demoralising setbacks is key to pushing through it.
5) Public policy is another interest you discovered during your ANU studies. What sparked this and how have you pursued this further?
I have always been interested in public policy, and I think my interest has grown the further I’ve delved into my studies. Underlying both of my degrees is a concern with public welfare, justice, and the improvement of people’s lives through economic and legal measures, and I hope to bring my interest in such policy concerns to whatever I do in life. My work in the Commonwealth Government has definitely furthered this interest, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see first-hand how economic and policy analysis translates into legal regulation.
6) Balancing life and study is important. What extracurricular activities helped you achieve this during your ANU studies?
My involvement with the ANU Volunteering Society was particularly rewarding – it was amazing to help organise community events and connect people with volunteering opportunities that they were excited about. I was also lucky enough to play with the amazing ANU Orchestra from their establishment last year. What made these experiences special was that I was able to meet so many driven, passionate people who, in addition to the friends I met through law school, helped to keep me motivated over the years.
7) What law course did you discover an unlikely passion in and why?
While I would not have predicted it when I first started studying law, I ended up developing a surprising passion for competition and consumer law. It was not until studying it that I came to realise the importance of the regulation of market conduct, and how often it becomes relevant to people’s day to day lives. Since law and economics are my two key academic interests, I found the intersection of economic theory and legal regulation in these areas of law particularly interesting, and I hope to continue doing more work in competition and consumer law going forward.
8) Were there any ANU Law academics you found influential or inspiring and, if so, why?
So many of the lecturers and tutors that I’ve had over the years have influenced the way I learn and have changed the way I think about the law. I would particularly like to thank Professors Greg Weeks and Ron Levy, whose charisma, enthusiasm and insight really sparked my fascination with all things public law that I’m sure will endure long after my time at ANU is over.
9) What advice would you give to first-year students on making the most of their time at ANU, both personally and academically?
While it might be cliché advice, I would suggest getting involved in as wide a variety of activities as you can, without overloading your schedule. I definitely found that getting involved in student societies, going to social events and pursuing personal interests and hobbies were great ways to meet new people and feel productive while focusing on something other than my studies. Doing things that I really liked outside of university really helped my mental wellbeing, which in turn, I believe, had a positive effect on my academic work as well.
10) Finally, can you tell us about what’s keeping you busy during the lockdown and your next steps?
While being in lockdown certainly isn’t how I envisaged spending my post-graduation break, I’ve been using the time to read a lot of the books that I wasn’t able to get through while studying, and learn some more Chinese. In terms of next steps, I’m excited to start a graduate position at Allens in Sydney next year, after a much-needed break.
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