3L Smith Wins National Pi Alpha Alpha Manuscript of the Year Award

Scarlet Smith, a 3L at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, recently discovered that she had received the Pi Alpha Alpha Master Student Manuscript of the Year Award for a paper she wrote in Professor Teneille Brown’s Health Law and Human Rights class.  In this interview, Smith describes the genesis of the paper, thanks her professors for their support, and expresses surprise at the “overwhelming support” her paper has received.

Congratulations on receiving the Pi Alpha Alpha Masters Student Manuscript of the Year Award.  Can you describe the award and the upcoming awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.?

Pi Alpha Alpha is the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. Each year Pi Alpha Alpha selects the best manuscript of the year from both a master’s student and a doctoral student. The papers must be nominated by faculty sponsors and are judged on the basis of relevance of the topic, appropriate use of methodology, quality of presentation, originality, innovativeness, clarity, and academic quality. You do not need to be a member of Pi Alpha Alpha to win the award; it is open to all students from all areas. The award is given at the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration’s (NASPAA) annual conference in Washington D.C.

In addition to the conference, while in D.C., I will be able to take an insider’s tour of the U.S. Capitol with former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Moody and an insider’s tour of the U.S. Supreme Court (of course, that is depending whether the government t shut down is still in effect).

Your paper focuses on organ distribution and the de facto exclusion of foster children from transplant waitlists.  How did you become interested in this topic?

Initially, I was interested in learning more about organ distribution and considered  a topic such as organ trafficking. However, as I researched organ procurement, I learned that no one has a fundamental right to a life-saving organ. Moreover, it occurred to me that with gaps in regulation and a lack of transparency, some vulnerable populations can be deprived even further.

 The paper was originally written for Teneille Brown’s Health Law & Human Rights class.  In what ways did Professor Brown help with the research and writing?

Professor Brown helped me a great deal. She offered detailed feedback and suggestions on earlier drafts of the paper and provided guidance through the research process.

Your paper already won the Dalmes Nelson Paper Award through the Public Policy Department. After honoring you with this award, the MPA faculty nominated the paper for the Pi Alpha Alpha prize.  Did you have an idea the paper would attract this kind of attention when you first started researching and writing it? 

I had no idea this paper would create such a reaction. I was interested in the topic and wrote the paper to fulfill the requirements of Professor Brown’s Health & Human Rights class. I never expected to look at the paper again after the class ended. However, I mentioned the topic in one of my MPA classes and my professor asked to see the paper. When my professor asked to see the paper, I knew the topic was interesting. Even after winning these two awards, I am convinced the topic is thought-provoking but I am shocked by the overwhelming support of the paper.

How did your classes, clinical experiences, personal attention from professors, and other opportunities at the College of Law contribute to you being able to produce this award-winning work?

Although I had the ability to write before I came to law school, the College of Law has pushed me to be better. The professors at the College of Law really invest in their students. Since the first year in Professor Anderson’s legal methods class, I’ve not only been challenged to write at a higher level but I felt supported.

To read the NASPAA press release about the award, click here.