Paul E. Smith
As a second-year student, Paul E. Smith ’12 is already a veteran of moot court competitions. Last year, Smith was a member of Columbia Law School’s team for the national Frederick Douglass Moot Court competition. That team placed fourth in the regional semifinals. This year, Smith has advanced to the finals of the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition.
Shortly after learning he was named a finalist, Smith was off to Syracuse, N.Y., to engage in field research for a class project. The trek upstate is the first of several trips he will make 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 is centered on the breadth of community- and Syracuse University–based change initiatives happening within an inner-city Syracuse neighborhood. “I’m examining one specific neighborhood in depth to see how various student, faculty, and community initiatives are interacting,” says Smith. “I’ll investigate their successes and challenges, and see how a university can use its resources to both empower a community and transform itself.”
The results of Smith’s work will become 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.
“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 makes the experience especially valuable. “Getting feedback on your work is so important. That’s also one of the great benefits of participating in the Stone Moot Court. The alumni judges provide feedback on your briefs and oral presentation throughout the process. You can reflect on that and continue to improve and develop your arguments.”
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 last summer to work at the North Carolina affiliate of the ACLU and will go back again in May to serve as a summer associate at the public interest law firm of Patterson Harkavy. “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.”