Mariellen Dugan ’91 spent the summer after her first year of law school in Parma, Italy, taking advantage of one of the many study abroad programs that Seton Hall Law has offered for more than two decades. “It was such rewarding experience. I cannot emphasize enough the impact that traveling and experiencing other cultures had on me,” she says. “Immersing yourself in another culture teaches you to be more tolerant of others and makes you a better person.”
Reflecting on her experience, Dugan recalls, “I learned about international torts and business contracts and formed deep bonds with my fellow students and teachers that continue to this day. I still keep in touch with many of my fellow students from the Parma program. And Professor Paula Franzese, who was one of our teachers that summer, became one of my mentors as well as a dear friend.”
International law is one of the fastest-growing areas of interest for today’s law students. Seton Hall Law has responded by increasing its array of study-abroad programs, expanding international law course offerings, and creating new opportunities for students through internships and externships that focus on international law.
Dugan’s unique study-abroad experience led her to support the law school’s enhanced international law programs by funding the Seton Hall Law International Law Fellowship, which provides a deserving student with a $5,000 stipend to fund an unpaid international internship. “It is important to me to give back to Seton Hall Law School after everything that the school has given to me over the years, both during my education and as an alumna,” explains Dugan. “I was looking for an opportunity to support the school and, given my wonderful experience in Parma, an international fellowship seemed like the perfect avenue.”
According to Professor Kristen Boon, Director of International Programs and Chair of the International Fellowship Committee, one-third of the students currently admitted to Seton Hall Law have expressed an interest in international law. Internships give students valuable access to the field. “The International Law Fellowship program is giving Seton Hall students an important leg up in the workplace,” said Professor Boon, “The Fellowship is also prestigious because the competition for international law internships is fierce.”
Last year, Jessica Charniga was the first student to receive the International Law Fellowship. She spent her time at NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. While there, she primarily worked on two projects: research focusing on the international aid community’s responsibilities to prevent and respond to the widespread gender-based violence currently affecting women in post-earthquake Haiti; and the creation of a web-based tool for international human rights activists to coordinate strategies to deal with particular situations of corporate human rights abuses. “I have always been very interested in Haiti and involved with Seton Hall Law’s Haiti Rule of Law program. I traveled to Haiti with the clinic after my first year and this year I am the president of the student organization, so getting a chance to do more research on Haiti was great,” Charniga says. “When I graduate I want to work in the international human rights field. This fellowship helped me realize that I want to do something more hands-on and have more client contact rather than pursue advocacy from a research angle. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to accept this internship without having to worry about how to pay for my expenses or take out a loan.”
This year’s recipient is Kristina Hon, who plans to graduate in 2013 with both a J.D. and a master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Relations. “There are very few paying internships in this field but there are a lot of interested and deserving students, so I am both excited and honored to receive this fellowship,” she says. Hon will work at the International Justice Project, which works toward advancing and strengthening human rights through the rule of law. “This summer I will be working with victims of the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo – taking interviews and putting together their histories to incorporate into applications for official victim status – as we prepare to take their cases before the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” she explains. “Through my course work I have an understanding of the theoretical aspects of international law, but I am most looking forward to meeting and working with the victims to gain an understanding of how these crimes actually affected them and to see how international justice works on a practical and personal level.”
“You can’t be a lawyer today and not have a basic understanding of how the international legal system works,” says Professor Boon. “Not only do we offer specialized programs for students who want to pursue international law, but also an increasing number of our domestic law courses now include an international component. For example, most contracts professors cover the Convention on the International Sale of Goods and many cases in constitutional law classes have international components. We also offer a Transnational Law course in the intersession that is open to first-year students.”
Today Seton Hall Law students can take advantage of a wide variety of programs including Law in Geneva, the Middle East summer program in Jordan, and the Zanzibar and Chamonix, France winter intersession programs. These include comparative and international law courses that draw on the respective regions' unique cultures and legal practices.
“I would love to see this fellowship grow and hope others will be inspired by Mariellen’s generosity. Our goal is to offer between three and five fellowships every summer,” Professor Boon says. “It would make us competitive with other schools in the region and we certainly have the student demand for it.”
Dugan concluded, “My experience in Parma was one of the high points of my years at Seton Hall Law. I am pleased to be able to provide a student with the financial support to pursue an international law internship and in doing so, perhaps helping a student experience a summer abroad.”
Pictured (left to right): Professor Kristen Boon, Kristina Hon '13, Jessica Charniga '11 and Mariellen Dugan '91.