Travis C., Guest Blogger, 2L UST Law student
This past summer I was a Udall Fellow in Washington D.C. The Udall Foundation was created in honor of Congressman Morris K. Udall and his brother, Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall. Every year the Foundation selects 11 Native American students from around the country to participate in a summer long paid internship working in Washington D.C. In addition, the Foundation also pays for all airfare to and from D.C., housing costs, as well as food and incidental costs.
Once I arrived in D.C., I was assigned to the Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, which is the legal counsel for the Secretary of the Interior. Specifically, I worked in the Solicitor’s Division of Indian Affairs. Essentially, we were the division which dealt with any and all Indian law related issues. I learned that the field of Indian law is vast, and it regularly cross-cuts with a variety of other legal fields. I also learned that the education that I had received as a 1L at St. Thomas had prepared me well for the tough legal assignments I was given. For example, during my time working for the Solicitor I drafted a number of legal memoranda which addressed issues such as taxing per capita distribution of Indian trust funds, and Freedom of Information Act questions.
In addition to the opportunities I was given at work, the Udall Foundation also arranged for several private meetings with influential leaders. For instance, my fellow Udall Fellows and I had private one hour meetings with Senators Mark and Tom Udall, and Senator John McCain. We also had private meetings with the National Congress of American Indians, the Native Nations Institute, the White House Office of Public Engagement, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee staff, and many, more.
I came away from this experience with a new found zeal and commitment to return home and serve my tribe. Indian issues are varied, vast, and there are few easy solutions. I also came to have a much greater appreciation for St. Thomas. St. Thomas is a mission driven school, and that fact was strongly reinforced this summer. While in D.C. I had the opportunity to meet other law students from around the country. I definitely saw a profound difference between most of them and myself. Many of the conversations I had with law students outside of the Udall Foundation tended to revolve around the prestige of their internships, or the average starting salaries students from their schools were making after graduation. I am not saying that these aren’t factors to consider, or that they are in some way not important at all. However, the students at St. Thomas, as well as my fellow Udall Fellows, seem to be driven by their passion to serve. I think that makes St. Thomas a special place filled with a different caliber of students.