Paul E. Smith is a seasoned veteran of moot court competitions. In 2011 Smith advanced to the finals of the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition, and in the year prior was a member of Columbia Law School’s team for the national Frederick Douglass Moot Court competition.
Shortly after learning he was named a Harlan Fiske Stone finalist, Smith was off to Syracuse, N.Y., to engage in field research for a class project. The trek upstate was one of several trips he made to the area for his capstone project in the yearlong Diversity and Innovation seminar taught by Susan Sturm, the George M. Jaffin Professor of Social Responsibility. Smith’s project centered on the breadth of community- and Syracuse University-based change initiatives happening within an inner-city Syracuse neighborhood. “I examined one specific neighborhood in depth to see how various student, faculty, and community initiatives were interacting,” says Smith. The results of Smith’s work became part of a sustained research project that explores the intersection of publicly engaged scholarship and efforts to increase diversity and accessibility in higher education. The project is one of many conducted through the Center for Institutional and Social Change, which is directed by Sturm.
Smith went on to serve as a teaching assistant for the seminar. “The Diversity and Innovation seminar enables me to connect scholarship with real-world impact,” says Smith, adding that Sturm’s commitment to working in-depth and one-on-one with students made the experience especially valuable. In his third year, Smith worked as Professor Nathaniel Persily’s research assistant, working on issues in redistricting and election law. Smith was the inaugural recipient of The Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan Scholarship, which he received for all three of his years at the Law School. The scholarship was endowed in 2009 by Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild ’79, to honor the memory of the late senator.
Smith, who was born and raised in a small North Carolina town, earned his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in political science. He returned to his home state two years in a row, first to work in the North Carolina affiliate of the ACLU and again last year as a summer associate at the public interest law firm of Patterson Harkavy. After graduation, Smith will be clerking with Judge N. Carlton Tilley in the Middle District of North Carolina, in Greensboro. “I’ve spent my whole life in North Carolina, and I know someday I will move back permanently,” says Smith. “I want to do interesting work that makes a difference.”