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Class of 2024: Max Sweeney

Politics and poetry are two of Max Sweeney’s passions, and they found every opportunity to find a like-minded community on the Hill. Max studied abroad with a Jan Term in Greece, the birthplace of democracy; joined the Maryland Student Legislature; founded the Poetry Club; and invented new kinds of events for their fellow students through Green Terror Programs.

A student sits in front of a window looking at a laptop.

Max Sweeney is a Political Science and Philosophy major from Delmar, Maryland.

When I took my first step on the Hill, I was: Instantly enamored by the beauty of the campus! I knew I would do just about anything to get on the Hill and learn all the secrets and knowledge it would provide.

The me who will ring the Old Main bell on Commencement Day is: A confident, well-rounded individual ready to take on the world after graduation!

Real-world experiences: First, I had an internship with Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (MD-D) the summer of my junior year, where I worked primarily on his Environmental and Public Works team. I spent six weeks on Capitol Hill, preparing co-sponsor memos for legislation, learning about electric vehicles, and even successfully advocating for the single-use bathrooms in Senator Cardin’s office to be gender-neutral.

I also studied abroad in Greece as a part of an 18-day Jan Term. This was an absolutely life-changing experience. I have always been interested in Greek mythology, ever since reading the Percy Jackson series in middle school. To stand in a place with so much history, that dates back thousands of years before the U.S. was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, was humbling, to say the least.

My aha moment: I’ve always known I wanted to do great things with my life. The opportunities that McDaniel has given me have shown me that I am capable of doing the things I love. As a part of my internship at the Maryland General Assembly, we were able to take a photo with Governor Wes Moore. He walked into the room and immediately launched into a beautiful, uplifting speech about how we were all destined to be world-changers. One thing that he said that I will hold onto for the rest of my life was, “You are never in a room you are not meant to be in. You are not there because of the kindness of others or random circumstances; you are there because you were meant to be.” So that’s what I’ve learned about myself in my time on the Hill: I am going to end up where I’m meant to be. McDaniel has given me the tools — now I just need to use them.

Footprints I’m leaving on the Hill: I want to be remembered for the impact I’ve made on the clubs on campus. When I was on the executive board for Green Terror Programs (GTP), I helped to usher in a new age of events on campus. The event I am most proud of is the Murder Mystery Night, where I wrote, directed, and planned a dinner show. I’d never had any experience writing or directing, but GTP gave me the opportunity to learn how to do both! I also am leaving behind a club that I founded, the Poetry Club, here at McDaniel. I’ve always used poetry as a form of self-expression and I wanted to find like-minded individuals to share, critique, and perform poems with. I’ve built up a community of poets who are ready to share their poems with the world, and I am so proud to call that club my own.

Faculty or staff member who most influenced who I have become: Dr. Matthew Mongiello is one of the best professors McDaniel has to offer. He is an excellent professor and has always been willing to sit down and have political discussions, even outside of class. Often, I would sit in his office for hours to pick his brain about anything and everything. He helped me formulate my ideas surrounding my Political Science capstone, led the Maryland Student Legislature (MSL) program at McDaniel, and was always there for me whenever I needed him.

Best class ever: When I was a first-year student at McDaniel, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. I took the advice of my advisors and took classes that I thought would be interesting. One such class was Contemporary Issues in Ethics with Adjunct Lecturer Danielle Albrecht. In this class, we talked about contemporary issues like abortion, food deserts, privacy, autonomy, and much more, and the ethical implications of such issues. This class opened my eyes to policy initiatives I didn’t even realize I was passionate about simply because I had never heard of them. It is also the class where I discovered my passion for philosophy and ethical dilemmas.

Tell us a little about your activities, including sports, during your years at McDaniel: I was involved in a plethora of clubs and organizations on campus. From founding the Poetry Club to joining Green Terror Programs, to MSL. My favorite organization that I was involved in was MSL. In MSL, we wrote draft legislation and defended it to a group of our peers from other schools. I’ve written bills about gender-neutral single-use bathrooms, securing firearms in gun safes when minors are in the home, and even a “joke bill” that overturns the Supreme Court Case McCulloch v. Maryland to establish Maryland’s state bank. My favorite part about MSL is defending and opposing pieces of legislation on the floor. It is a lot of fun to figure out the best way to argue your point and defend it against others. I’ve also gained many networking opportunities and even earned the title Most Outstanding Delegate my very first time in the legislature!

A close up headshot of a student in a red suit with a Maryland Student Legislature pin on the lapel.

Took me totally by surprise: The amount of HILLS on this campus!

My favorite spot on campus: My favorite spot on campus is Hill Hall. I have spent so many hours hanging out in the basement classrooms, going to classes, and meeting with clubs in that building. It holds so many amazing memories that I will cherish when I look back at my college days.

Most mind-boggling idea I learned at McDaniel: Newt Gingrich, a Republican representative from Georgia, is the reason that politics on Capitol Hill have become nationalized and is partially responsible for the political gridlock that we often see in Congress today. Before 1994, politics on the Hill were based mostly on deals made between Congresspeople. Say, for example, a representative from Maryland wanted to write a bill that increased EPA protections for the Chesapeake Bay to help mitigate climate change. That representative would go to his colleague from Virginia and ask him to support the bill, because they have similar policy goals (Virginia also borders the Chesapeake Bay). Gingrich decided, instead, that he wanted to run on a national campaign instead of a state-based campaign with a “Contract for America,” which listed eight key policy initiatives that Gingrich and other Republicans could agree on. Now, elections are more polarized, and people don’t vote based on specific policies, they vote on party lines. I just think it’s so interesting that from this particular politician’s goals, we have created a nationalized political climate that is more focused on grandstanding and political messaging than it is about actually helping people.

My capstone title: “Legitimacy of the Supreme Court in Times of Political Upheavals.”

What it’s about in plain talk: My research was focused on understanding how the legitimacy of the Supreme Court has changed over time. I compared instances where the Supreme Court was in crisis, like Dredd Scott v. Sanford (that arguably led to the Civil War) and Brown v. Board of Education (which was at the center of the Civil Rights movement), to better understand how the legitimacy of the institution changed in times when the country was in dire straits. I used that to extrapolate what the country may do in the current legitimacy crisis that exists due to the Dobbs v. Jackson decision (that overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the abortion decision back to the states) and other recent court opinions.

What’s next: Post-graduation, I would love to work somewhere in Washington, D.C., whether that be on Capitol Hill, at a think tank, or nonprofit. My ultimate goal is to change the world for the better through political action.

How will you stay connected to McDaniel? I’m super excited to come back for Homecoming every year! I’m also excited to one day provide the alumni connection that I am currently seeking out to get jobs post-graduation.

If you received financial aid, what did that mean for you and your family? I got an almost entirely full ride to McDaniel based on academic merit and financial need. It is absolutely life-changing to walk out of college with almost no debt. When I was freshly 18 and looking at colleges, my finances were at the forefront of my mind. I grew up with a single mother who was raising three young children, so I knew I needed to work hard in high school to earn scholarships to pay for my own education. When McDaniel offered me these scholarships, I knew I would be able to go to college without stressing about financials every semester. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity, and it truly has set me up to be successful later in life.

Are you the first in your immediate family to attend college? What has the experience meant to you? Being a first-generation college student in my family has meant more to me than words can describe. Navigating college without having someone to hold my hand was hard, but McDaniel was extremely helpful in explaining every step of the way. I found professors who genuinely care for my well-being and want to see me succeed and allowed me to ask questions like “How do you write a professional email?” and challenged me to write a better capstone. Professors Mongiello and Albrecht are part of what keeps the cogs of McDaniel moving.

About Max

Name: Max Sweeney

Majors: Political Science and Philosophy

Class of 2024

"The opportunities that McDaniel has given me have shown me that I am capable of doing the things I love."