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Posted June 24, 2010
Summer Research

Gary Lawkowski '11: Learning the Ins and Outs of National Security

Gary Lawkowski

I was attracted to the Department of Homeland Security because I want to use my legal education to have a positive impact on the world. My experience so far with the department has been amazing. Its summer program is focused on giving summer law interns a strong understanding of the work of the department and its components. To that end, interns are treated to field trips to component organizations, including the Coast Guard and Customs and Boarder Protection, and presentations on the functions of each division in the Office of the General Counsel.

Interns then split their summer experience between two divisions of the Office of the General Counsel. I will be splitting my summer between the Operations and Enforcement and the Legal Counsel divisions. Thus far, I have been extremely impressed with my first assignment with Operations and Enforcement. I found that I had a substantive research and writing project on my first day with my division.

The Department of Homeland Security is one of the most visible federal agencies. When oil spills mar the Gulf Coast, terrorists threaten Times Square, or hurricanes stalk the eastern seaboard, the country turns to the DHS. In spite of this highly visible role, I have found that from top to bottom the Office of the General Counsel is a friendly, collegial organization. Like any good Virginia Law student, I was delighted to discover when it is not busy saving the world, the Office of the General Counsel even has a softball team.

When the department was first stood up in 2003, it represented the largest administrative reorganization of the federal government since the establishment of the Department of Defense. Since it is a relatively young organization, working with the department offers a rare opportunity to see the development of a new federal agency from the inside.

While it is still unfolding, working for the department is shaping up to be a great experience. I have been able to gain insight into the role of the department and experience working with the federal government, while being able to tackle substantive assignments in an encouraging environment.

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