Courtney ColePlease tell us about yourself and what motivated you to come to law school.

My involvement in the Native American community began when I was an undergraduate. Though I had always been aware of my heritage, I came from a family in which no one identified as Indian. My decision to do so as an adult, therefore, was fraught with feelings of inadequacy and imposture. But the cultural, social, and academic support that I received as a member of our American Indian student organization afforded me the confidence to develop my identity as a Native person. With it I earned a degree in American Indian and Indigenous Studies, authored a thesis on tribal whaling, and was accepted to the University of Colorado Law School to study Indian law. I plan to use my time in law school, and my career, to give back to a community that has given so much to me.

What motivated you to become involved in public service work at CU Law? What are the most valuable things you have been involved with and how do you think these have shaped your public service career goals?

I chose the University of Colorado Law School because of its strong American Indian Law Program and particularly for the opportunity to participate in the American Indian Law Clinic. I did so during my second year and the experience was by far the most valuable of my law school career. The Clinic allowed me to develop an understanding of lawyering in Indian Country, including the unique aspects of tribal client representation and the complex ways in which federal, state, and tribal law interact in practice. The most profound moment of my clinical experience, however, was the realization that I – even with my then-limited set of skills – had the capacity to be of service to the Native American community. Put simply, that is what I came to law school to learn how to do and I look forward to spending my life doing it.

What advice do you have for incoming law students who are interested in public service?

Take advantage of the multitude of public service opportunities that the University of Colorado Law School has to offer. Whether it be teaching high school students about the First Amendment on Constitution Day, representing a community member in the Criminal Defense Clinic, or volunteering with the Public Interest Student Association, there are many ways in which you can use the knowledge that we are so fortunate to be receiving to help others. Make sure not to miss them.