Pedro Alfonso ’15C

Pedro Alfonso ’15C

Government and Politics Major Receives Selective Law Fellowship in Chicago 

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Pedro Alfonso ’15C adapts easily to new places. In fact, when the Los Angeles, CA, native learned he was accepted to St. John’s University, his mother bought him a plane ticket to New York to see if he could handle a weekend in the city alone. Now, three years later, the government and politics major is exploring Chicago as one of only four recipients of the American Bar Foundation’s (ABF) Summer Research Diversity Fellowship.

“I remember my mom telling me, ‘if you can do a weekend in New York, you can go to school there. I won’t have any more questions for you.’ I was pretty confident back then,” he recalled.  This summer, he’s spending time in the Lake Shore section of Chicago with three other recipients of the selective fellowship.  

Alfonso was urged to apply for the fellowship by Truman Scholar Donya Nasser ’15C, a good friend and fellow government and politics major. With the help of Marshall Scholar and Pickering Fellow Shama Ams '14C, he navigated his way through the application process. “I heard that only four people in the nation would be awarded the fellowship, and I was a little nervous,” he said. “Then I woke up one morning and there was a message on my phone inviting me to Chicago. I was thrilled. ”

The fellowship introduces students to the rewards and demands of a research-oriented career in the field of law and social science. Students work at the foundation’s headquarters and are paired with an ABF professor, who engages the student in his or her research project.  

This summer, Alfonso’s mentor is Robert Nelson, Ph.D., director of the American Bar Foundation and professor of sociology and law at Northwestern University. “I’ll be working about 35 hours per week in the office,” said Alfonso. “I’ll also be helping my mentor with his research.”

Alfonso is already building a formidable résumé, both on and off the St. John’s campus. As a sophomore, Pedro cofounded the St. John's chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing the progressive ideas and legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Last summer, he interned at the office of Congressman Adam Schiff, representative for California’s 28th District.

In addition to their research, the fellows go on field visits to the University of Chicago Law School, Northwestern University School of Law, and various courtrooms around the city. Alfonso is undecided as to which area of law he’d like to pursue, but hopes the experience will help him narrow his choices.

“I’m going to be around some heavy-hitters in the Chicago area,” he said. “I really want to learn about the city and the legal system. Above all, I really want my experience there to open doors for other St. John’s students.”