Student Selected to Join Institute for Responsible Citizenship
This summer, Gaël Hagen ’09 will be doing
something a little different than he’s used to. Specifically, he’ll have the
opportunity to meet with such high-level government officials including
Supreme Court Justices, the Secretary of State, U.S. Senators, U.S.
Congressmen, as well as business leaders.
pictured at right, is a newly-selected scholar to the Institute for
Responsible Citizenship, a leadership program centered
at Georgetown University. Each year, 24 minority male students are selected
to participate in the two-summer program in Washington, D.C. During the
first summer, students take courses on campus while interning in the D.C.
Metro area. During the second summer, students work full-time and act as
mentors to the next group of 24 newly-admitted candidates.
“I feel very fortunate to have been chosen among a group of individuals who
all are highly talented and have managed to do astonishing things with their
lives thus far,” Hagan says. “It will be both a great honor and a privilege
to be a part of the institute and enjoy all it has to offer.”
A stipend is provided to cover the cost of transportation and food. Students
live in university housing provided by the institute during the program.
Hagen, who is studying in the College of Social Studies, became interested
in law during high school. Since then, he’s tried to immerse himself in as
many law-related activities as possible; the institute being one of them.
The institute will provide him with not only a legal internship in America’s
political powerbase, but offer encouragement within a valuable academic and
“What personally draws me to law is the way in which it demands a person to
perform and analyze in a constantly changing environment,” Hagen says. “The
practice of law, at least as I have witnessed it, is something that is never
a stagnant ordeal. New cases provide new hurdles, new personalities, and new
problems. It seems as though it requires a person who likes a consistent
A resident of Centennial, Colorado, Hagen came to Wesleyan, seeking a
university that offered a new environment. He favored the College of Social
Studies for its closeness and intensity. He also joined the crew team as a
freshman, looking for a different kind of intensity.
“Certainly the culture here is much different than in Colorado, or most
places west of here, for that matter; so it was a compelling move,” Hagen
says. “For some, being involved in a two-season sport like crew and studying
in the College of Social Studies is an all but desirable combo; but for me,
it means that every day I get to do the two things that I love most about
being at Wesleyan.”
A recipient of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Academic Scholarship for his
academic achievements, Gaël was also named Student of the Year by the
Colorado Association of Black Engineers and Scientists in 2005 for his
distinguished leadership skills. Last summer, Gaël interned at Holland and
Hart LLP, where his proficiency in French aided the firm immeasurably.
Hagan says his background and cultural experience provides him with a
toolset and a perspective with which he can employ as a unique advantage,
not only at Wesleyan but at the institute.
“The experience of the American minority is one that is highly important for
the country as a whole given its ‘melting pot’ origins, and I think that our
voice is one that is, and rightfully should be represented and respected in
the nation’s judicial activities,” he says.
On the other hand, Hagan winces at sloppy references to cultural or ethnic
groups as just ‘the minorities’ and ‘people of color.’ He believes it places
too much emphasis on a separation of cultures, which only discourages unity
and distances people from each other.
“I do not consider myself to be a minority or a ‘person of color’ before I
consider myself a young person, a student, a person with career goals, an
athlete; no different from any other person who might fit those categories,”
he says. “Yes, I happen to have a multi-ethnic background which, if I were
to explain in depth, would span four continents; but I don’t feel that those
are my primary personal attributes and encourage people in both camps – ‘the
minority’ and ‘the majority’ -- to understand not how their cultural
experiences differ them from others, but how their cultural experiences
connect them to others.”
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection