A new adventure: Semester-in-Practice

Great news to share for the new year!  After nearly a year of back and forth with clinic administration, I have been accepted into the Semester in Practice program! Before I get into this, let me first say that for 99% of applicants, the Semester in Practice program is fairly easy and simple to set up. I, of course, had to blaze my own path, which comes with its own adventure.

Semester in Practice is a semester long program coordinated by the clinic department at BU. It essentially gives you an opportunity to gain work experience for a semester and receive academic credit. In my humble opinion, and as a non-traditional law student, I think Semester in Practice is one of BU’s strongest programs. It is the ultimate let’s-try-this-and-see-if-I-like-it clinic; it allows students to get work experience with an organization or government office of their choice. And, best of all, semester long internships are less competitive than summer placements!

The majority of Semester in Practice placements are done through existing relationships between BU and non-profit or government entities in Boston, New York, DC, and Geneva (UNHCR).  Being the stubborn person that I am, I decided I wanted to define my own opportunity and do everything ad hoc. This meant a lot of cold calls, networking, and soul searching – I had to find the right placement for me, one that furthered my career goals, while also balancing the program requirements (which are completely reasonable, I just had a hard time finding something in the peacebuilding field that would be supervised by a lawyer).  I blame myself for picking a field with so few available lawyers (or maybe this is a good career move where demand still exceeds supply!).

For my placement, I will be working at Conflict Dynamics International (CDI), a non-profit organization based in Cambridge that focuses on governance and political accommodation as a tool for resolving armed conflict.  If you’re like my parents, you are confused already.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  In other words, we look at how different governance systems (e.g., presidential vs. parliamentary; different kinds of electoral systems; separation of powers; etc.) can help to achieve and sustain peace in places like Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. For example, how electoral districts are drawn and the type of electoral system used can have an impact on who is represented in parliament and subsequently what types of laws are written and enforced. If only one group is represented, the underrepresented group(s) may feel marginalized or may even face discrimination or persecution, which in some circumstances can lead to conflict. This is obviously a simplification, but it helps to put things in context.

I will be working on CDI’s new initiative on Syria, where we’re exploring a discussion on governance as an avenue for moving peace talks ahead. Very exciting and timely work.  It will hopefully include travel to the region as well. So stay tuned for updates.

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