Liza Jones, a second-year student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, has been awarded a prestigious Bergstrom Fellowship for a three-day workshop in child welfare at the University of Michigan.
In the interview below, she discusses her dedication to the field of child welfare, the many opportunities she has had to pursue her professional interests as a student at the College of Law, and her future plans.
Please describe the process that led you being awarded the fellowship (e.g., how did you become aware of the fellowship, and who encouraged you to apply).
I first became aware of the fellowship from an email that was sent out by the clinical program. I knew immediately that this was something I was interested in so I contacted [Associate Director of the Clinical Program] Kay Shelton to get further information. When she found out about my interest in the fellowship she was very supportive and strongly encouraged me to apply. I had just finished a two-semester placement in the Office of the Guardian ad Litem through the Civil Clinic Program and Kay knew from that experience that I was already devoted to the issue of child welfare. She contacted the Bergstrom coordinator on my behalf with some follow-up questions I had about already having a placement lined up and once I received the positive response I began the application process. At that point, Professor Linda Smith was very helpful with providing feedback on my application materials. Additionally, she wrote a letter of recommendation on my behalf for which I am very grateful.
How did you first become interested in child welfare issues? Are you planning to practice family law after graduation.
I first became interested in child welfare issues during my undergraduate studies. During my undergraduate career at the University of North Dakota I studied psychology with an emphasis in child psychology, which has provided me with a valuable insight into working with children. Additionally, I spent my colligate summers working at an inner-city daycare providing programming to a group of young boys with behavioral disabilities. That experience gave me a first-hand view of the effects that court orders and DCFS investigations have on children’s lives. I knew at that point that I wanted to pursue a career that would help mitigate those effects and ensure that children’s best interests were always represented. That is why I have taken such an interest in family and juvenile law since attending the College of Law and why I want to pursue a legal career after graduation that emphasizes child protection.
How did your coursework, clinics and other opportunities prepare you for this fellowship?
This year I was enrolled in the Family Law class and also was the 2L class representative for the Family Law Society student group. Additionally, I volunteered at the Pro Bono Family Law Clinic dealing with a vast array of both clientele and legal issues, and also worked at the Disability Law Center in Salt Lake City.
Additionally, my placement for the fellowship this summer will be with the Utah Office of the Attorney General, Child Protection Division but I began working there as a law clerk in January of this year.