SLS Awards 2020 - Outstanding Law Student
Jesse Caldwell, a third year law student, is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Law Student Award, which is given to a law student who has excelled at leadership and service this year. One of SLS’ student staff members caught up with Jesse recently to learn more about the great work she’s been doing at Lewis & Clark.
SLS: What is your role at Lewis & Clark? What is your program/degree, and what inspired you to pursue it?
Jesse: I am a graduating third year (3L) law student. I primarily study environmental law through the law school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Certificate. From a young age, I knew I wanted to enter the conservation field in some capacity. I decided to pursue a legal degree after studying environmental sociology at my undergraduate university.
SLS: What does service and leadership mean to you?
Jesse: Service is a selfless action for the benefit of others. Leadership is dynamic. It means adaptation to the needs of a given group. Sometimes, it requires you to make decisions on behalf of a group of people. Other times, and perhaps more frequently, leadership is about listening. To me, leadership is all about collaboration. To be an effective leader, one must know when to take a step back. Leadership is knowing when to use your voice and when instead to elevate another’s.
SLS: Could you talk about what you have done this year regarding service and leadership?
Jesse: Last fall, I co-founded Students for Eliminating Environmental Discrimination (SEED). SEED hopes to bring a greater awareness of environmental justice issues to Lewis & Clark’s law campus. To do so, SEED emphasizes peer-learning opportunities, strengthens ties with local advocacy groups, and utilizes a non-hierarchical collaborative board structure. In contrast to many law school organizations, SEED has no president, no vice president, no treasurer; just ten or so law students making decisions together. I am proud of the work that my peers and I put into creating SEED’s unique framework. It reinforces vital communication and negotiation skills which will serve immensely useful to our future legal careers.
This year, SEED partnered with the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) to create a student work group on environmental justice issues. In the fall semester, I co-facilitated this NEDC work group. Similar to SEED’s board structure, we emphasized collaboration and peer-learning throughout our projects. Our primary goal was to lay the groundwork for future students to effectively engage in substantive legal work pertaining to environmental justice issues under the guidance of NEDC’s staff attorney.
SLS: How can people support this effort? Do you need volunteers?
Jesse: Lewis & Clark law students can engage in SEED’s activities and join the NEDC work group! We welcome all Lewis & Clark and local community members to attend our events. Additionally, SEED puts out a bi-weekly newsletter in which we collect campus, national, and global news relating to environmental justice. If you’d like to be involved with SEED, please email email@example.com.
SLS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Jesse: I’d like to thank all of my law school peers, professors, and fellow SEED board members for their support throughout my law school career.