Jody Daniels receives campus Distinguished Alumni Award

We are pleased to announce that Jody Daniels (Ph.D. '97) received the 2014 campus Distinguished Alumni Service Award at the Massachusetts State House in April 2014. According to the Alumni Association, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association on alumni, faculty and friends. Recipients of this prestigious award have translated their UMass Amherst experience into distinguished achievement in the public, business or professional realms and bring honor to UMass Amherst and to their field of endeavor.

Jody is a Brigadier General currently on active duty. She is a Deputy Director (J2 Intelligence and Knowledge Development) responsible for the intelligence and counterintelligence to facilitate situational awareness, warning and assessments on the threats across the 54 countries in the US Africa Command area of responsibility.

Jody received a UMass Amherst Computer Science Outstanding Achievement and Advocacy Award in 2010.

We saw it fitting to share her award acceptance speech with our CS audience.

Distinguished guests, faculty, family, friends:

Thank you very much for this honor. I am quite surprised to be standing here today as I hadn't ever considered going to graduate school until my first Army boss asked why I hadn't applied. It had never crossed my mind. A few years later I decided to apply and UMass was an easy choice.

As I transitioned from being a full-time military intelligence officer to being a graduate student in the fall of 1990, the U.S. was just beginning the activities over in the Gulf that would eventually become Operation Desert Storm.  As I was the only person that most of my fellow students knew to have served in the military, I was frequently called upon to explain "all things Gulf," "all things Army," and "all things military." I was suddenly thrust into the position of being the Expert on topics about which I knew very little. This caused me to pay a lot more attention to newspapers. So, while I was learning how to read journal and conference papers, I was also learning how to read and interpret the media.

It caused me to take a whole new view of how I looked at the world and my role in it. I realized I was also in a position of influence.  I had to be far more careful and conscious with my words. I finally internalized the saying that "Words matter." This came to be ever more true as I reached higher civilian and military positions and more people relied on my words to guide their actions.

I left UMass a whole lot wiser in ways I hadn't imagined. It wasn't just a degree or two; it was how to do research, how to frame arguments, how to make an impression, how to create a network. I learned how to listen better.

Those skills have served me well - regardless of whether I'm working with a team of scientists, a battalion of new recruits, or the National Chief of Intelligence for one of our African country partners.

I have had the pleasure of living a dual life - crossing frequently between my civilian and military careers. The overlap has not been as much in technical areas as it has been in communications, management, and leadership skills.

I was fortunate to have the strong academic background that the UMass Amherst Computer Science department gave me that allowed me to succeed at Lockheed Martin. I was fortunate that Lockheed Martin also valued my continuing service to the Army and the Army Reserve. I believe that the combination allowed me to migrate skills between the two careers and be a better leader than otherwise.

I'd like to thank all those faculty who helped me successfully complete the master's and Ph.D. programs, especially, Edwina Rissland, Bruce Croft, James Allan, Nick Belkin, Victor Lesser, Paul Utgoff, and Eliot Moss, but also Lori Clarke, Susan Landau, and Bev Woolf, who never knew it, but I looked upon as role models.

I'd also like to recognize and thank my fellow graduate students who forced me to better articulate my thoughts and arguments while they also supported and encouraged my dual track life. My family deserves much recognition and thanks for their endless support across everything I've done and continue to do.

Finally, I'd like to close with a quote from a leader and statesman who clearly recognized that words matter, and who had multiple careers - serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then as Secretary of State - General Colin Powell: "Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don't know. Then tell me what you think. Always distinguish which is which." As a leader and as an intelligence professional, these are words I try to live by.

Once again, thank you for this honor.

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