A Unique Opportunity: The Rappaport Fellows Program

Today I’m hosting a guest blog from Kadie Martin, a second-year student and Rappaport Fellow, about her experience with the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at BC Law.

My first love wasn’t the law. It was public service.

A lot of people assumed I would go to law school because I studied (and loved) political science in college. But I didn’t always see that as my path. After college, I worked in state government, first in the State Senate, and then for the Attorney General’s Office, and saw how state law shaped Massachusetts residents’ lives. It always seemed that if I wanted to pursue a life of public service, particularly in government, I would have to make a choice. I could go to law school or study public policy.

But then I heard about the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at BC Law, and all that changed.

The Rappaport Center, led by Executive Director Lissy Medvedow and Faculty Director Dan Kanstroom, convenes Massachusetts leaders within government, nonprofits, business, and academia to think through the most pressing, complex, and challenging societal issues of our time. This spring, for example, Senator Markey will be on a Rappaport panel about criminal justice reform. Rappaport hosts visiting professors, including former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift this semester, and Senior Fellows in Residence.

The Rappaport Center also has a fellowship program, and it seemed made just for me. That cemented my decision to apply to BC Law and pursue the fellowship, and I was accepted. The program funds twelve fellows throughout Massachusetts who spend a summer working in state and municipal government offices. Two of my favorite aspects of the fellowship are the mentors and experiential learning opportunities. My mentors were City Councilor Michelle Wu and Hemenway & Barnes Partner and former lawyer for the Obama and Patrick Administrations, Patrick Moore. Throughout last summer, we met with Governor Baker, Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Inspector General Glenn Cunha, Cannabis Control Commissioners, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, District Attorney Rachael Rollins, and City of Boston officials. We also went to the MBTA Control Room and took a walking tour of East Boston with Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards.

The MBTA Control Room was definitely a fan favorite. As a Green Line rider, I walked in very critical of the MBTA. But I have to say, I walked out with a real appreciation for how much the MBTA is taking on. The cash-strapped MBTA transports a lot of people across the metro Boston area, each and every day, with old equipment, in varying (and sometimes extreme) weather conditions, while also responding to riders’ tweets! We learned that in a city without bus lanes, more riders take MBTA buses every day than the light rail. My biggest takeaway, though, was a new appreciation for the logistical puzzle of updating a very old transportation system. The MBTA is acutely aware of how many people’s lives get derailed when it shuts down any line for maintenance. As one employee told us, the magic happens between the last routes at night and the first trips in the morning. The Control Room lights up with activity, with employees tweaking schedules, testing trains, and replacing rail lines. And then during the day, the MBTA is also planning for the long-term. Acquiring new equipment is a multi-year and expensive endeavor. I now have a bit more compassion when the C line goes off-line on summer weekends, or when there is “T traffic” in the tunnel downtown. But as a true Massachusetts resident, I will continue to blame the T whenever I am late for anything.

As I told Lissy Medvedow during my interview for the Rappaport Fellowship just over a year ago, the Rappaport Center was one of the key reasons I chose BC Law. For a state and local public policy student, there is no place quite like Massachusetts. Massachusetts leads the way. There are a lot of very smart, passionate people working hard to implement new policies that serve all communities within the Commonwealth. Massachusetts policymakers have an enormous responsibility; not only are they stretching resources to deliver results for their constituents, but they are often writing the playbook for the rest of the country.

Each experiential learning opportunity on its own was incredible. But what makes Rappaport special is how it brings people together with different backgrounds to think through problems that are all connected and related to law. What happens in Boston shapes Massachusetts policy, and what happens in the State House affects City Hall. Boston College Law School has a role in all of it, and we have Rappaport to thank for that.

Kadie Martin is a second-year student at BC Law and a 2019 Rappaport Fellow in the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy.

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