The Law School topped the nation with six recipients of the prestigious Skadden Public Interest Fellowship, a spokesperson announced yesterday.
The six students and recent graduates of the Law School are among 25 fellows selected nationwide from more than 250 applicants. The recipients are Debra Dickerson, Ingrid Eagly, Terri E. Gerstein '90, Sumi Shin, Kathleen Tarr and Davis Thronson.
The fellowship program was initiated in 1988 to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of New York's international Law firm Skadden, Meagher & Flom, said Susan Butler Plum, a lawyer in the firm who serves as the director of the selection committee.
"The application process is highly self-selecting and wildly competitive," Plum said. "Only the top students apply."
Plum said the program is intended to provide an opportunity for young lawyers to pursue public service.
"The idea sparked was to create a fellowship program of two years that is similar to a Peace Corps for lawyers," Plum said.
In order to apply for the fellowship, which grants a salary of $32,500 per year, the applicant must find a prospective job in this area, Plum said.
"Essentially, the purpose of the program is for students to design their dream-like jobs and we fund it," Plum said.
The Law School's Public Interest Advising Office helps interested applicants with one-on-one counseling, information sessions and practice interviews, said Jill P. Martyn, an assistant at the office.
Dickenson, a fellowship recipient who will work for the NAACP Legal defense fund next fall, praised the office's assistance.
"The [Public Interest Advising] office was incredible and really bent over backwards and did everything possible during the trying time of applying," Dickinson said.
She added that the fellowship has enabled a "dream to come true."
Eagly, a recipient who will work for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, echoed the sentiment. The fellowship provides a "great opportunity to do a dream job," she said.
Judith A. Murciano, fellowship coordinator for the Public Interests Advising Office, praised the caliber of the recipients.
"The program is fantastic and the number [of applicants] is impressive but what is most important is the quality of the students who applied and the quality of what they have done overall, especially in terms of community service." she said.
The Fellowship Selection Committee is comprised of 12 lawyers from Skadden, Plum said. The committee seeks applicants with strong character, a commitment to public interest and a special sensitivity to the economically disadvantaged, she said.
The application process includes written essays and an interview, Plum said. The committee then submits its nominees to 12 trustees of the firm, who give the final approval. The recipients were notified of their selection last December.