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Miriam Archibong L’16 continues her family’s tradition of public service

September 28, 2015

Miriam Archibong L'16 has had two White House internships and is now working with other Penn Law students to combine scholarship and publ...
Miriam Archibong L’16 has had two White House internships and is now working with other Penn Law students to combine scholarship and public policy.
Miriam Archibong L’16 discusses how her Penn Law education has influenced her long-standing work in government and public policy.

For Miriam Archibong L’16, following a path of public service was not a difficult choice — in fact, it was expected of her. Archibong comes from a long line of public servants: her grandfather was a county commissioner, her uncle was a local city councilman in Tennessee, her mother is currently on the Atlanta City Council, and another uncle is now serving as a Georgia state representative.

“I grew up in a family where words routinely became action,” Archibong said. “Our family dining room was often used for strategy and planning meetings about various community issues.”

Archibong didn’t wait long to get started affecting policy. As a high school student, she lobbied the Atlanta Public Schools board, leading to the creation of the United States’ first government funded vegetarian lunch line in a public secondary school.

At Spelman College, Archibong received her bachelor of arts in political science, and later earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, specializing in education policy and management. After Harvard, she went back to Atlanta, where she taught with Teach for America in the same public school system that educated her.

Once she completed her service with Teach for America, Archibong fulfilled a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Singapore to study the country’s education policy changes. When she returned to the United States, she began her first internship at the White House, working in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, where she helped plan a women’s panel with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisory to President Obama, and Susan Rice, National Security Advisor and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

“Everyday was exciting at the White House — not only because the issues were complex, but also because the best and brightest of this generation were at the epicenter of the decision making process,” Archibong said of her first stint at the White House.

As a law student, Archibong’s public service path led to a chance internship with the Philadelphia Law Department, through Mayor Nutter’s office, and a second White House internship this past spring with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). At CEQ, Archibong worked with the Climate and Preparedness team and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives that were designed to prepare the United States for the eminent effects of climate change.

“Through that experience, I saw how important it was to think critically about every public policy decision — both practically and theoretically,” she said. Archibong also noted that it is even more important to study issues deeply, and to be open to exploring other fields and new ideas.

Archibong takes those sentiments to heart — in addition to her JD studies, she is also working toward a certificate in business economics and public policy, offered by Penn Law and the Wharton.

“A strong attribute of Penn Law is our commitment to interdisciplinary studies,” she said. “Penn Law breeds the next generation of leaders. If we intend to stay ahead of the rapidly changing global curve, we have to think critically, differently, and be forward thinkers regarding issues facing this country.”

Archibong’s commitment to this charge led her, along with a diverse group of talented Penn Law students, to found the independent seminar: Journal of Law & Public Affairs (JLPA). Currently, JLPA serves as both an independent seminar and independent journal that allows Penn Law students to engage in timely public policy discussions. JLPA is committed to having innovative features, such as executive summaries to make the scholarship more accessible to policymakers and legal scholars, and will include an emerging leaders section that will highlight young and fresh ideas about public policy in this country.

The journal will also be online, Archibong said, so that the people making public policy decisions can easily access scholarship published through JLPA.

“At the end of the day, this is our country, and we want to make sure we are making the best decisions — not just for ourselves but also for our posterity,” Archibong said. “And we see the Journal of Law & Public Affairs as a brilliant and innovative way to accomplish that end.”

Immediately following law school, Archibong will embark upon a one-year federal clerkship with Judge Raymond Jackson, in the Eastern District of Virginia.