I received my offer from Reed Smith in August 2010, right before my third year of law school. I had spent two summers as a summer associate and I was excited to jump back into my work after the bar exam. However, my offer came with a condition: I was going to be deferred until January 2012. While deferrals had become increasingly common at that time, it still left me with a large question: What was I going to do for the five months between the bar exam and my start date? Some of my peers saw their deferral periods as a burden, but I saw mine as an opportunity. At first, I thought about interning or finding a legal job locally, which would certainly have been a prudent way to spend my time. I decided instead to have a more unique deferral experience.
During my undergraduate career at Penn State University, I had the opportunity to work with the Race Relations Project directed by two sociology lecturers, Dr. Samuel Richards and Dr. Laurie Mulvey. The program provided students with an opportunity to have candid dialogues about race relations. During my three years as a facilitator of these dialogues, I experienced firsthand how facing this taboo topic in an honest way could change perspectives, including my own. I developed an appreciation for how limited my perspective on race relations was by my own experiences. Through these dialogues, I was able to relate to people who had life experiences very different from my own. I later learned that the program had been expanded globally and renamed the World in Conversation Project. Though it had been nearly three years since I had worked with the program, I reached out to Richards and Mulvey to see if they could find a place for me in their new venture during the period of my deferral. They graciously agreed.
I began working with the World in Conversation Project in August 2011, just a few weeks after taking the bar exam. While working for the program, I served as director of the More Than Words initiative, which used videoconferencing technology to bring undergraduate students from Penn State and the Middle East together for cultural dialogues. The students discussed everything with one another — their families, politics, college experiences and even war. This frank and open dialogue gave the students new perspectives on each other’s lives, helped to shatter prejudices and changed cultural misconceptions. This initiative opened my eyes to the beneficial impact of expanding the dialogue on diversity to a broader, global platform. Previously, I had spent most of my time committed to working through race relations locally. Through my work with the More Than Words initiative, I suddenly saw the benefit of a global perspective.
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