The Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, the William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) have collaborated to create a fellowship that provides tuition and a paid internship for minority students enrolled in the joint master of public policy (MPP)/juris doctorate (JD) program. The Jane M. Bolin Fellowship is named after the first female African-American judge in the United States.
“The Bolin Fellowships, made possible by the National Center for State Courts, highlight the complementary nature of the MPP and JD. This initiative allows the Thomas Jefferson Program and the Law School to reach out to members of populations historically underrepresented in the making of law and policy, giving them the background to become tomorrow's leaders,” said Eric Jensen, director of the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy.
In this inaugural year, two fellowships have been awarded to students, Krystle Cadogan ‘10, and Ashley Heilprin, ‘13. Moving forward, one four-year fellowship will be awarded annually allowing there to be as many as four Bolin Fellows simultaneously. Bolin Fellows receive generous financial support toward their MMP and Law coursework and a paid internship for one summer at the National Center for State Courts.
NCSC President Mary C. McQueen added, “We believe this fellowship will attract talented students whose experiences and perspectives will enrich the justice system, and make valuable strides toward improving the diversity of our professionals working to improve judicial administration.”
For the fellows, the academic commitment is one year of study in public policy, one year of law and then two years of combined study.
Jane Matilda Bolin was the first African American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, and the first to serve as a judge in the United States when in 1939 she was sworn in to the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court. Judge Bolin was born in 1908 and died Jan. 8, 2007.
Heilprin, who graduated from the University of North Carolina with a BA in public policy and economics, was drawn to the College in part by the Fellowship.
“That was the deciding factor for me coming to William & Mary,” she said.
While this is just her first semester in the program, she noted advantages from the Fellowship were already apparent.
“That’s really nice that while other people are stressed-out about finding an internship [for the summer], and hoping that they can get a paid internship, that’s not something I have to worry about,” Heilprin said.
Cadogan holds a BA in government from the University of Florida; she has been in the MPP/JD joint degree program since 2006 and is three-fourths of the way through the program. She received the Fellowship for her final year. And while she says the award allowed her to continue her education at William & Mary, she says the meaning behind it goes much deeper.
“(The Bolin legacy) reminds me that we don’t realize it because we’re living in it, but all of us are making a way for someone who is coming behind us. It’s a great legacy.”
Those who will come next are on the mind of the creators of the fellowship as well.
“The National Center for State Courts has long recognized the importance of diversity in our justice system,” said NCSC President Mary C. McQueen. “In order to maintain the public’s trust and confidence in the justice system, it’s crucial that courts understand the communities they serve. One way to achieve this is to support women and minority students in their pursuit of careers in the law and public policy.”
Cadogan added the support from the College had been broad based.
“You definitely don’t feel like a number,” she said. “(The public policy and law programs) recognize that you are an individual and they recognize that you have come here with a purpose and their objective is to equip you the best that they can.”
Administrators agree, the goal of the program is to train the best policymakers possible.
“The Law School's partnership with the Public Policy Program has created precisely the blend of skills that policymakers today and in the future will need to best address pressing societal problems. Lawyers must understand economic, social, and political fundamentals; policymakers must understand the basic architecture of legal regimes,” said Eric Kades, Vice Dean, William & Mary Law School. “We are confident that our Bolin Fellows will leave William & Mary well-equipped to help shape policy in the public interest.”
While neither Heilprin nor Cadogan knows exactly what they will do with their degrees after graduation, both say they have public service aspirations.