CHICAGO — Amanda Moreland doesn’t turn down an opportunity to serve. During an involvement fair her first year at DePaul University’s College of Law, Moreland signed up with nearly every student organization on campus. As a result of saying yes again and again — to volunteer service, study abroad at The Hague, and an internship at the CDC — she is poised to make a lasting difference through a career in public health law.
Moreland will graduate with a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University’s College of Law on May 18. During her time at DePaul, Moreland contributed more than 1,000 hours of public service — more than double the average of the typical law student — by helping homeless youth in Chicago and leading her classmates on service trips to New Orleans, all while following a dream to prevent public health crises from happening in the first place.
Following a path from public health to law
Before she came to DePaul, Moreland earned a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in health promotion and policy. She went to work in Boston for the nonprofit Partners in Health, an organization that strengthens health systems in developing countries. While Moreland enjoyed doing the hands-on work, she had a realization about her own career while watching the organization become increasingly involved with the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
“It was heavy work, and though I loved the field I was in, I wanted to do more,” said Moreland. “There are so many things you can do with law to prevent public health problems from happening, whether it’s through policy or legislation. That’s where law school came in.”
Moreland went on to balance coursework at DePaul with an internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their Public Health Law Program. She began her work at the CDC in Atlanta and was involved with global public health initiatives and opioid legislation research. She has continued to work remotely with the CDC, and DePaul awarded her the Pusateri Fellowship in its Center for Public Interest Law to fund her internship.
“It has been my chance to really dive into a role where I am combining my public health experience with my legal education,” Moreland said. “It was confirmation that it was the right route to go.”
Taking the opportunity to serve
Moreland recently received the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award, which is given to graduating students who reported serving 200 or more service hours while at DePaul Law. The average for hours served is about 388. When asked how she managed to squeeze in 1,000 hours of public service while in law school full time, Moreland laughs.
“Honestly I don’t know how I did it. I think I’m just used to being busy. There are so many opportunities in law school, and I never wanted to turn any of them down,” she said.
During a College of Law service trip to New Orleans, Moreland visited Covenant House, a shelter for homeless and at-risk youth, and learned they were opening a site in Chicago. The agency provides immediate services — from nap rooms to showers — and long-range services such as medical care and legal aid. Moreland offered to be a summer intern and was selected for a Cudahy Fellowship at DePaul to fund this work.
“The people Covenant House serves are kids, and they’re not far off in age from me,” said Moreland. “The interactions that I got to have with people while I was there were the most rewarding part,” she said. In her third year, Moreland was the student coordinator of the New Orleans trip, organizing the group activities that she felt were most valuable for her peers and also beneficial to the clients they served—needs she understands more fully from her time at Covenant House.
Global health and human rights
While considering law schools, Moreland said DePaul stood out for its human rights and international law offerings. She took two international human rights practicums that offered opportunities to study abroad. She traveled to Santiago, Chile, to collaborate with local organizations to compose a shadow report to a UN treaty body. On a trip to The Hague, she deepened her understanding of international criminal law by visiting international criminal tribunals and meeting with professionals in the field.
Executive Director of International Human Rights Law Initiative and Global Initiatives Elisabeth Ward, said Moreland was one of the most driven students she has ever had the pleasure of teaching.
“Motivated by her desire to produce a quality report outlining ongoing human rights violations, Amanda surpassed all expectations, and quickly earned a leadership position,” Ward said. “Not only does she have unmatched passion, she also has such a warm and charismatic personality.”
Looking ahead, Moreland hopes to land a full-time position with the CDC or another agency doing “substantive public health work.” Moreland advises younger and prospective law students to be open to every opportunity that they can in law school. She said graduating is more exciting, and far less scary, than starting law school.
“It becomes more of a challenge and an adventure,” Moreland said. Moreland will graduate with some 260 other students from DePaul's College of Law. The commencement ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 18. Retired appellate judge Ann Claire Williams, who shattered glass ceilings as a public servant, is the commencement speaker. More details at http://bit.ly/DePaulGrad2019.
Kristin Claes Mathews