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Posted 03.16.07

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.

Hagen, 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 social environment.

“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 challenge.”

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 editor