Intern gets taste of life at Supreme Court

  Bethany Nanamaker

BOWLING GREEN, O.— Sometimes it's worth postponing graduation. At least that's the view of one Bowling Green State University student who is delaying her graduation to be an intern this semester at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bethany Nanamaker of Findlay, a senior political science and international studies major, has been a judicial intern at the Supreme Court since early January. She will remain in Washington, D.C., through April.

The Judicial Internship Program provides advanced undergraduates and graduating seniors who have interests in law, management and the social sciences a unique opportunity by working in the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice. The office assists the chief justice in his overall management of the court.

The administrative assistant serves as a liaison for the chief justice, not only within the federal judiciary, but also with the executive and legislative branches. The office further assists the chief justice in his ceremonial duties and provides background materials and research for his public addresses and publications.

Judicial interns work under the direction of the Supreme Court Fellow and perform important office tasks, which include summarizing news articles and preparing memoranda and correspondence.

Interns also conduct background research for speeches and briefings provided to visiting foreign dignitaries. They also may participate in diverse research and organizational projects conducted by the Supreme Court Fellow and the administrative assistant.

Nanamaker did not expect to win the internship, but it was no surprise to her professors.

“Bethany is talented, hard-working and creative. She is unusually able to see issues from multiple perspectives,” said Dr. M. Neil Browne, Distinguished Teaching Professor of economics and director of the IMPACT Learning Community. “She is a wonderful representative of BG. I'm very proud of her, and she should be very proud of herself.”

It was Dr. Nancy Kubasek, a professor of legal studies, who first told Nanamaker about the internship and helped her prepare to apply.

Nanamaker took Kubasek's legal studies course as well as a constitutional law through the political science department. She has since been conducting legal research for Kubasek, which has helped prepare her for the demanding, extremely precise work in Washington.

Her work at the court is demanding, yet in some ways her life in Washington is easier, Nanamaker said. There, she can come home from work and be done; at BGSU she was involved in numerous activities, including Mock Trial, BGeXperience Honors, the legal research for Kubasek and participation in IMPACT Learning Community—on top of her regular course load.

“After four years in IMPACT, I really miss my community,” Nanamaker admits. “I still participate in the online discussion board. I feel myself being like the seniors I used to look up to,” she added, “taking the role of a leader in the group.

“It was seeing those seniors getting into great grad schools—law schools, med schools, one getting an M.A. in psychology—that convinced me that I should go on to a higher degree,” she recalled. She plans to earn both a law degree and a Ph.D. and to teach law or another area of the social sciences.

“I don't want to practice law,” she said. “I prefer the cooperative environment of the classroom to the competitive environment of the courtroom, but I want to teach in some area of law or social justice. I'm interested in how the law is used to effect social change.”

Being in IMPACT, which stands for Integrating Moral Principles and Critical Thinking, was “a really good fit for me and very important developmentally,” she said. The community comprises students from various majors and all class years. “It teaches you to ask questions,” she said.

Coming from an environment where there was not a strong expectation of her to go to college, the effect BGSU had on her was incalculable, she said.

“I want to teach at a university where I can have the same impact on students as Bowling Green has had on me. I want to show them that there's a really big world out there.”

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(Posted March 29, 2007 )