New York, January 29, 2014—Columbia Law School alumna Maren Hulden ’12 always knew she wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer.
As it turns out, she’s had the opportunity to be both. And now, as one of a select group of law graduates and judicial clerks chosen for this year’s prestigious Skadden Fellowship, she’ll be able to combine her two passions while advocating on behalf of special education students. The Skadden Fellowship Program, established in 1988 by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, pays each fellow’s salary and benefits at a sponsoring organization. In the fall, Hulden will begin work at the Minnesota Disability Law Center in the state in which she grew up.
2014 Skadden Fellow Maren Hulden '12
"In addition to financial support, the Skadden Fellowship is tangible recognition that Maren will be a strong force for improving the legal framework for some of Minnesota's most vulnerable children," said Ellen P. Chapnick, dean of Columbia Law School’s Social Justice Initiatives, which helps students and graduates secure public-interest fellowships and employment.
Hulden will dedicate her two-year fellowship to helping students placed in Minnesota’s “Setting IV,” the most restrictive special education setting in the state. Segregated from general student populations, Setting IV children often languish for years without receiving the services they need, making reintegration into traditional school settings difficult—if it ever occurs.
Through direct representation and collaboration with parent and community organizations, Hulden plans to advocate for systemic changes in individual schools and districts to ensure students’ educational and due process rights are respected.
Hulden was inspired to tackle the issue in part because of her experience as a 6th grade social studies teacher where she often had special education students in her classes. She taught for two years in the Teach for America program before enrolling at Columbia Law School.
She also plans to draw on her experiences in Professor Susan Sturm’s Diversity and Innovation seminar, a yearlong class that develops innovative frameworks and strategies for addressing structural inequality through institutional change. As a fellow, Hulden’s goal is to make sure all students have access to an excellent education.
“The students in Setting IV are both the most vulnerable students in the public education system and also the students who present the greatest challenges to inclusion,” she said. “One of my jobs will be to help make sure a child who doesn’t need that level of structure and separation is able to benefit from and participate in a more general education.”
Hulden will be gathering data to see which Minnesota school districts use Setting IV most and why. She also will represent students and their parents in efforts to vindicate their right to receive individualized services in the least restrictive environment possible as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The Skadden Fellowship is the continuation of Hulden’s career in public service. At the Law School, she founded the Education Law and Policy Society, served as president of the High School Law Institute, helped young people aging out of the foster care system in Professor Jane M. Spinak’s Child Advocacy Clinic, and worked with Professor James S. Liebman’s Center for Public Research and Leadership on consulting projects with K-12 schools in New York City.
After graduation, Hulden clerked for Judge David Hamilton at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit before taking her present position as a clerk for a federal district judge in Minnesota.
Hulden’s background “gives her a strong foundation for doing the important work of ensuring that students are included and able to participate to their fullest capacity in the public education offerings of school districts in Minnesota,” said Sturm. “The extraordinary rigor, intelligence, organizational skill, insight, humanity, and commitment that has characterized Maren’s work at Columbia Law School make her an ideal Skadden fellow.”
Hulden said she is excited to be back in Minnesota working in the school system in which she grew up.
“Everything that I am and that I’ve learned is in great part due to public education here in Minnesota,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be giving back to my community.”
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