On Friday, Sept. 25, at 4 p.m., Burton Blatt Institute Chairman Peter Blanck will address a virtual symposium hosted by the Disability Allied Law Students Association (DALSA) at the New York University School of Law to celebrate the 30th anniversary…
Marcus Lane Jr. Reflects on Syracuse Experiences, Montgomery Fellowship
Marcus Lane Jr. of Hartford, Connecticut, is a rising junior studying policy studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is also a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program. This summer, Lane is one of four university students from around the United States engaged in the prestigious Montgomery Fellowship at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago. Below, he talks about his fellowship and his Syracuse experience.
01What influenced your decision to come to Syracuse?
I applied to Syracuse University because it was one of the few schools that had everything I wanted at the time—fantastic study abroad opportunities, strong social science programs and a strong alumni network.
02You have done a lot at Syracuse besides hit the books—you co-founded the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS) Youth Council, worked to combat food deserts in Syracuse and have been a research consultant for Home HeadQuarters. Tell us about these experiences.
Shortly after arriving at Syracuse, I felt it was my obligation to immerse myself not only in the college experience but also in the broader Syracuse community. This motivation was informed by my personal experiences, especially because realities in Syracuse are not much different from the ones I lived in Hartford.
I started assisting ACTS, a local interfaith advocacy organization, by founding the ACTS Youth Council. The Youth Council began as a conference for high school students to gain advocacy and organizing skills. It has evolved into a collective of young and bright individuals seeking to make changes in the Syracuse City School District.
After my first year at the University, I stayed in Syracuse and worked as a site manager for Urban Delights in Jubilee Homes. At Urban Delights, I taught basic entrepreneurial skills to high school students and helped them grow their own fruits and vegetables at a nearby urban farm. They sold what they grew in the Southwest community and at the downtown farmers market.
Home HeadQuarters is a nonprofit organization committed to increasing homeownership and mitigating divestment in Syracuse. One of their feature programs is the Homebuyer Education course, where participants learn key aspects to homeownership and receive one-on-one counseling. Participants who graduate from the course are eligible for funds to help purchase a home, and are better prepared for the home-buying process. During the spring 2017 semester, I surveyed these graduates and recorded their homeownership experiences. Upon completion of the study, I compiled a 60-page report on the project, gave a presentation of my findings to the Home HeadQuarters staff and recommended policy changes for the organization.
03You have done many other things as well—worked as a teaching assistant for a public policy course, served as an assembly member for student government and worked as an intern for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). How have all of these experiences influenced you, and what have they taught you?
I was a teaching assistant for Professor Bill Coplin and his PAF 101 introductory course on public policy and analysis. Through this experience, I learned that attention to detail is critical for success, and providing solutions to problems goes a long way. As an assembly member of Student Association, I realized the importance of building and leveraging relationships to accomplish mutual and independent goals.
Interning for the NYCLU has been the most rewarding experience in terms of my personal and professional growth. I learned that diplomacy, and engagement in all dimensions and levels of the political process, is crucial to fostering change. I learned that I should remain rooted in the communities I serve, but also must center my perspective on the empowerment of the most vulnerable or otherwise marginalized in our society. Research is a constant to understand complex issues and produce solutions, but some of the most profound answers are not found in a textbook nor database—those affected speak them. Patience and sacrifice are inherent in this type of work, but they will always be rewarded. I have also learned that no one’s dignity and contributions are worth less than anyone else’s.
04What have you been doing as part of your Montgomery Fellowship experience?
As a Montgomery Fellow, I am assisting Robert Nelson, an American Bar Foundation Scholar, on his research project named After the JD (AJD). The AJD project is a collection of systematic data on the career outcomes of a cohort of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000. This research offers a nationally representative picture of lawyer career trajectories and an in-depth insight into the careers of underrepresented lawyers. The AJD project is the first of its kind in the U.S.
Beyond assisting with this research, I visit local courts and organizations that pertain to the law and participate in weekly seminars. I also have the honor of meeting other scholars in the American Bar Foundation, and other notable professionals in Chicago.
05How will you use this experience to inform and enhance your studies and work when you return to Syracuse?
I believe my fellowship experience will enhance and provide focus to my intellectual interests, which will help in the upcoming semesters on and off campus. I am positive that I will be able to contribute to class discussions from a unique point of view due to the knowledge I gain throughout this summer. This fellowship is rewarding, and it was a reward in itself. I overcame significant adversity last semester, and it was a relief and a blessing to be able to embark on this journey. Thus, I will return with the confidence and motivation to put forth my best effort in finishing my undergraduate education at Syracuse University.
06What are your plans once your undergraduate career at Syracuse is complete?
I am interested in community organizing, particularly around issues such as incarceration, housing segregation, juvenile justice and police accountability. I imagine that my future career would pertain to one of those areas. If necessary, I will go to law school after I receive enough organizing experience.