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Urban Morgan Fellow Returns from US Embassy in Rabat

2L Kathleen Norris worked at the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau section of the US Embassy in Rabat, Morocco during her 2017 Summer externship with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Cincinnati, OH- “I’ve always been interested in law, since I was five,” said Norris. “I’ve always been one of those kids who wanted to be a lawyer.”

Kathleen Norris was born in the suburban town of Centerville, OH about 50 miles north of Cincinnati. Prior to her start at UC, she traveled often, sparking her interest in International Law, women’s rights, and democracy. After graduating high school, she made a “spur of the moment” decision to try something new for her undergraduate studies. Her desire for adventure took her to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Norris studied political science and history. She fell in love with Africa, and knew she wanted to return.

After graduating from Rhodes, Norris chose UC Law for The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. Not only would this decision allow her to be closer to her home in Centerville, but also gave her the opportunity to continue studying abroad. Norris was awarded the Arthur Russell Morgan Fellowship, granting her a stipend for a summer externship.

Fellows work hand in hand with professors and other faculty at UC Law to find the correct placement for their externships. Particular issues, foreign language abilities, and geographic preferences are all taken into account when choosing the correct location. In Norris’s case, two individuals provided mentorship during her study abroad.

“There’s great mentorship from Nancy Ent and Professor Bert Lockwood who are very supportive and creative in the way they use their knowledge to ‘cherry pick’ experiences that would emphasize or refine student’s skills. It’s important to have someone in law school that is rooting for you.”

Norris worked at the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau at the US Embassy. Police reform, prison reform, and judicial reform are all responsibilities of the section. However, Norris also took on side work in the political section as well as the economic section, where she would do her best to communicate in French.

“I took on a little side work. I assisted in the economic section that deals with trade, IP issues, stuff like that. I worked on a report for the political section, that’s specifically within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. That was interesting, I really liked working there because I was abke to use my French skills. It was kind of an untraditional environment, compared to legal experiences in law school generally. I went to meetings where everyone was speaking French. I’d have to retain the information and use it in a productive way. I liked that because I was practicing more than just researching and writing.”

Norris gained real-world experience and learned valuable lessons. However, she made sure she embraced the culture. When she wasn’t working at the Embassy, she was getting more acquainted with the customs and traditions of Morocco.

“We had cultural events at the State Department, so I went to an Iftar, which was essentially the breaking of the fast during Ramadan,” said Norris. “Being invited into people’s homes and experiencing home-cooked meals was really important to me. That was not in my job description, but I got to do things outside that realm.”

The externship to Rabat changed her way of thinking about legal issues in the human rights field. Outside of the classroom, her participation in the experience helped her identify what issues are important to her, developing a passion for her future career.

“My Urban Morgan experience has really challenged me to think about what I believe in,” said Norris. “It forced me to not only use legal arguments and the legal skills I’ve learned through analysis and research, but also why it is all important; why anyone should care about specific issues. In a broader sense, I think it is important to learn more than case-by-case, not that those aren’t important, but how I can invest myself through this process in the future. That’s one of the things I’m grateful for.”

Writer: Kyler Davis, communication intern