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Mary Kate Johnson

The Natural

By Joy Y. Wang

Summer 2009

Ever since she was a young girl, Mary Kate Johnson ’10 has viewed her father as the go-to problem solver for her entire family. “He is a retired lawyer and loved what he did,” says Johnson, who hopes to continue the family tradition of skillful and considered problem solving. “[His example] really paved the way for me going into law.”

Last year, Johnson’s desire to tackle notable problems led her to Romania. As a human rights intern for Professor Jack Greenberg, she gathered information from nongovernmental organizations about the integration problems and successes experienced by the often-disenfranchised Roma population. “There was not a lot of collected data on the Roma,” Johnson explains. “In Romania, whatever nationality you claim for yourself, you can be, so many people deny being Roma once they achieve a certain degree of success. Then that reinforces the notion that Roma are poor and uneducated.” Greenberg is currently using Johnson’s research in a seminar he’s teaching.

Johnson, who is serving as a summer associate at Sidley Austin, came away from the trip with a distinct sense of accomplishment. “The experience gave me the chance to problem solve in a real way,” she says. That sense of pragmatism has driven her interest in project finance law, a field Johnson is considering for the future. “Large infrastructure projects can really make a difference,” she says. “Something like creating toll roads can help people on a very real level.”

Photographed by David Yellen