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Inaugural Post-Graduate Fellowship Program Met with Success

Recent graduate Laurel Krajewski (JD ’20) was placed with Peter Kaldes (JD ’01), CEO at American Society on Aging.  The two alumni recently caught up with one another to discuss the experience.

 What is the mission of the American Society on Aging?  

  • The American Society on Aging (ASA) unites, empowers, and champions everyone striving to improve aging. Since 1954, ASA has developed and led the largest, most diverse community of professionals working in aging in America. As a result, ASA has become the go-to source to cultivate leadership, advance knowledge, and strengthen the skills of our members and others who work with and on behalf of older adults.

How did it assist the organization to have a Fellow assigned to you?

  • As part of its recent transformation, ASA is developing a new policy and advocacy focus. However, with its broad membership base, ASA needed to identify the issue areas it would focus on in advancing its mission. You, Laurel, came on board to identify and analyze all the recent legislative ideas introduced or passed by Congress related to aging and overlapped with ASA's areas of priority. She developed a framework that the ASA will use to drive all our immediate advocacy and policy work as we work with the 117th Congress and the incoming Biden Administration. 

As a Fellow, I noticed that understanding the legislative process and finding potential new legislation is important for policy work and practicing law. Would you agree that it is worthwhile for students and recent graduates to develop skills along those lines?

  • While it's easy to think we can ignore Washington, DC, we all need the skills to navigate the institutions that shape our day-to-day lives. Understanding the so-called "sausage-making" of the legislative process, particularly from grassroots advocacy to policymaking, is critical to practicing law or using a law degree. 

Since graduating from Pitt Law, you worked for the National Security Council at the White House, oversaw global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, and established a specialty food brand startup before becoming the ASA CEO. What foundational skills have you leveraged in each of these roles?

  • Whether it was analyzing large quantities of information to accurately advise the President of the United States, identifying specific actions that would have the most significant social impact on global grant recipients, or transforming a 67-year-old national association through a pandemic that's disproportionately impacting its core stakeholders, I credit Pitt Law for developing my ability to spot an issue and critically solve for it accurately.

What is your fondest memory of Pitt Law?

  • More than two decades have gone by, but I will never forget the first people I spoke with that first day of law school. Like so many that morning, I felt anxious, nervous, and lonely sitting at an empty table in the Barco Law Building's large lobby. But it all disappeared thanks to CJ Pearl and Carrie Kleinman Escritor, the first two people who joined my empty table, and the amazing camaraderie that followed. This is my fondest memory because I met people who went from being complete strangers on day one to becoming my closest friends by graduation. CJ and Carrie not only helped me through law school, but they had a profound impact on my life. 

What was the best piece of advice you got from someone else when you started your career?

  • Someone once said that if I no longer am learning in a job, it was time to move on. It has been a great piece of advice. It has given me one way to judge whether I am being challenged in a role.

What is one piece of advice you would give to recent graduates that you wish you would have known when you graduated?

  • I would encourage all recent graduates to be open to the idea that having a law degree does not mean you have to be lawyers. Legal education is a powerful tool for whatever job you are in. I'm sure I was told this, but I didn't hear it when I first graduated and put myself into a professional box that limited my potential. Only by exploring other career paths did I recognize what a powerful tool a law degree was to my success. 

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