Recent Graduate, Member of Class of 2014 Embark on Prestigious Fellowships

Two prominent fellowship programs designed to train future government leaders have chosen a Chicago Law 2012 graduate and a current student as fellows.

Christine Roark, ’12, is a Presidential Management Fellow with the Food and Drug Administration in suburban Washington, D.C. Donald Stevens was a rising 3L set to graduate in June who has instead decided to spend the year in Hungary as a Boren Fellow, a program of the National Security Education Program. Stevens will graduate in 2014, and then, as a term of his fellowship, seek work with a national security agency.

Both programs are prestigious and intense, and competition is fierce. The Presidential Management Fellowship earned by Roark had about 9,000 applicants; 628 were selected as finalists and 366 found employment with a federal agency, as of October 4. At the FDA, Roark works on labor and employment cases in the Workforce Relations Division.

“So far I have been doing a lot of training and getting up to speed on the labor and employment laws, regulations, and policies,” said Roark, who majored in government and sociology at the University of Virginia and is originally from Columbus, Ohio. “I will be doing a good deal of case law research and writing.”

Roark is required to undergo 80 hours of training a year, and she already has attended the “Next Generation of Government Leaders Summit.” She plans a rotation in the FDA policy office, and also possibly at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of General Counsel and within the Department of Justice. The fellowship lasts two years, after which the fellow is expected to take a position with his or her home agency. Roark said she likes her coworkers and hopes the FDA continues to be a good fit so she can stay put when the fellowship ends.

Roark isn’t new to government service. She spent her 1L summer working for the Ohio Attorney General.

“I found the issues that faced government to be challenging and exciting,” she said. “After working for state government, I wanted to work on issues that affected the public on a larger scale.”

When Stevens’ fellowship in Hungary is over, he’ll return to the Law School for his 3L year. The Boren is designed to send students to study in countries where the United States has a national security interest. After graduation, Stevens is required to spend at least a year working at a federal agency with national security responsibilities; in particular, he is to seek work at the Departments of State, Defense, or Homeland Security, or as part of the intelligence community.

In applying for the fellowship, Stevens pointed out that Hungary, and Eastern Europe as a whole, pose a threat to economic security because of problems enforcing copyright and high piracy rates. He arrived In September and will spend a full calendar year there. He was chosen as one of 119 winners from 575 applications.

While in Hungary, Stevens is living in Budapest and attending a nearby language school, Balassi Intezet (Institute), where he is learning Hungarian alongside students from Russia, China, Korea, and Mexico.   His goal is to obtain fluency before he leaves, and it’s already going well, he reports: He and a Mexican student had lunch and carried on a long social conversation in Hungarian, and he managed to buy a SIM card in the local tongue.

Separately, at the University of Szeged Law School, about 105 miles south of Budapest, Stevens is working with a professor on a comparative analysis of U.S. and Hungarian copyright law. The professor sees moral rights as the key to understanding the difference between the two legal regimes, and so the moral rights issue will be the main focus of the project, with some attention to enforcement issues as well. Stevens will compose lectures on their comparative analysis and also on Fisher v. University of Texas, an affirmative action case before the Supreme Court this term.

Stevens, a native of Portland, Ore., has a lot of history with Hungary. His ancestors came from Transylvania, and his parents started performing Transylvanian folk dancing in the 1970s. Stevens himself has played Hungarian folk music since he was 8 years old (he can play the double bass and the violin), and he performed for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in May during NATO in Chicago. Two years ago, Stevens spent the summer in Hungary, and he took a quarter of the language during his undergraduate at Stanford University. While at the Law School, he has Skyped with friends in Hungary and made friends through the Chicago Hungarian Society as he continues to hone his language skills. Of course, being in Hungary for a year will only deepen his ties.

Stevens has been pleased to find out that his school’s reputation for excellence is well known wherever he goes.

“The university affiliation has opened a lot of doors in eastern Europe because everyone knows about this school,” he said.

And thanks to students and graduates like him and Roark, Chicago Law continues to be represented in the most competitive fellowship programs in the country and the world.