Pi Sigma Alpha Conference Serves as Jump Off to Law School for Two Former Participants
Many payoffs are possible from attending the Pi Sigma Alpha undergraduate conference in Washington, DC. You could meet inspiring people, share research on your academic passion, and gain valuable insight as to which career is right for you. For Christina Zeidan and Masiel Pelegrino, two past attendees and current Emory Law students, all of these were indeed the eventual outcomes.
At the time of the annual PSA conference in February 2015, Pelegrino and Zeidan were seniors at the University of South Florida and the University of Kentucky, respectively. Both of them had been active in Pi Sigma Alpha for some time and demonstrated interest in law and political science through their coursework and student government experience.
“When I attended the 2015 PSA conference, my university’s chapter, of which I was president, had just re-formed the year before after a long hiatus,” Zeidan explains. “I felt that attending the conference would help me learn more about how other chapters operated and maintained membership.”
“I saw the PSA conference as a great opportunity to share my research on Florida politics,” Pelegrino says. “At the same time, I wanted to expand my knowledge and learn about what issues my peers had looked into and what their findings were. The PSA conference provided a great forum for both of these goals.”
After students and faculty were given time to mingle, the conference began with a keynote address by Nick Troiano, a young civic entrepreneur who is now the CEO of political activist group, “The Centrist Project.” Troiano spoke of his quest to empower moderate voters and independent candidates on the national level.
The big moment for the two young women came when they each presented the thesis projects that had taken them several labor-intense months to prepare. Zeidan’s research focused on Central Americans living under asylum law in the United States, and compared their experiences to those of Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Meanwhile, Pelegrino investigated the political landscape of her home state of Florida, specifically how Hispanics and non-Hispanics compare in terms of their voting preferences. The favorable audience reaction that followed was quite rewarding for the both of them, given the immense effort which these presentations had demanded.
Two years later, both Pelegrino and Zeidan are in their third and final year at Emory University School of Law. They have taken a number of courses together— including Contract Law, Constitutional Law and Complex Litigation— and served as teaching assistants and judicial externs during their time at the school.
Both of them readily acknowledge the impact of the Pi Sigma Alpha conference in preparing them for the challenges of law school. In particular, having to write and defend a substantial research piece as part of this conference was quite the warm-up for the work they now conduct as J.D. candidates.
“I think a lot of students join law review because they like to write,” says Zeidan, who is currently active on the Editorial Board of the Emory Law Journal. “But law review is a much more scholarly endeavor, involving research, editing, and the patience and discipline to create a unique work…. I definitely had an advantage because of participating in undergraduate research.”
Pelegrino expressed similar views about her own trajectory from college to law school.
“My experience doing research, writing and presenting at the Pi Sigma Alpha conference had a big impact on the way I have approached law school,” she says. Her college-born research strategies and organization skills have served her on many of her projects at Emory, including her current research paper on judicial behavior.
Upon completing their demanding studies at Emory, the two students will be poised to enter their professions of choice. Pelegrino plans to work at a civil litigation firm specializing in trial work; one of her chief goals is to provided assistance to injured individuals needing to pay their medical bills.
“[As a civil litigator,] I want to represent those who cannot represent themselves,” Pelegrino says. “I want to fight for them and I want their voices to be heard in our legal system.”
Meanwhile Zeidan is hoping to work in immigration litigation, and ultimately make the move to immigration policy.
“I consider myself a compassionate and conscientious person, which I think suits me to the practice of immigration law,” she says. “Immigrants are very vulnerable individuals, and immigration lawyers have an enormous amount of power and responsibility therefore.”
Along the way to achieving such great ambitions, the networking and research skills that the Pi Sigma Alpha conference once helped them to foster are sure to come in handy.
By Josh Weiner
Fall 2017 Pi Sigma Alpha Intern