Semester in DC: Alumni Spotlight - Tessa Walker
Driven by a desire to serve the public good, Tessa Walker ‘13 has specialized in civil rights and health law during her time at Pitt Law. Through her Semester in D.C Program externship, she has had the chance to provide input on everything from medical student curriculum revisions based on the federal laws to rural health care initiatives and language access.
A graduate of the University of Buffalo with a degree in Human Services and a concentration in Community Mental Health, law school was a natural next step for Tessa from her former career in women’s rights.
Pitt Law’s Semester in D.C. Program factored into Tessa’s decision to matriculate. She knew she wanted to obtain practical skills while in school. Also, Tessa was impressed by the idea of beginning her career in the public interest while still in law school. After her first two years of law school, Tessa realized she wanted to work for the government upon graduation. To that end, she applied to intern for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., and was accepted.
Of her externship, Tessa says she “had an excellent opportunity to see how the different pieces of the government agencies come together.” Her work was primarily focused on the law but she was able to do policy work as well. Tessa says, “I got a very holistic experience in working in the government, which confirmed that government work is something I would be very happy doing. With government work you have different challenges every day and really smart people that are dedicated to working on them.”
Though her externship was challenging, her D.C. experience included memorable personal experiences as well. She was even invited to go bowling at the White House! Tessa also took advantage of the cultural diversity of D.C. She went on the White House Garden Tour and spent time sampling the delicious food on H Street and throughout the city, including a Pitt Law Semester in D.C. student favorite, Sticky Rice.
For Tessa, the Semester in D.C. Program offered a chance to add another government experience to her resume, further confirming her dedication to serving in the public interest upon graduation:
“D.C. was a serious part of my career plan. The Semester in D.C. Program let me refocus on what the job of a lawyer is and not just what the job of a law student is. It reminded me that I am making the right choice to stay with the issues that I see myself working on long term. In D.C., you are around people that want to help you achieve your goals. You will likely work in an office that is really supportive (like mine), and they make you feel good about where you are going and help you understand how to achieve what it is you want.”