Hometown: Topeka, KS
Undergraduate Institution: University of Kansas
Undergraduate Degree: Communication Studies
Matthew Enriquez, a second year University of Iowa law student, has known the importance of education and being a lifelong learner from a very young age. His father, an immigrant to the United States, told Enriquez higher education is a gateway to the “American Dream.” His mother, a lifelong teacher, delivered a contrasting, but equally compelling viewpoint: higher education is a time when students should develop and begin to identify their purpose in life.
In combination, those viewpoints, along with his personal observations of inequity and exclusion in higher education, fueled his interest in creating positive working environments for students, faculty, and staff at universities. He hopes to use his law degree to counsel colleges and universities on equal employment opportunities, policies, and labor relations.
Either from the employee or management side, I want to help create positive working environments so that educational institutions can focus their priorities on their academic missions,” the 25 year old said.
At Bowling Green State University, where he received his master’s degree, he had an opportunity to see how policy affected who was able to attend college, work at a university, and succeed at both of those things. He decided there that he wanted to work to maximize each of those things, and thus attended law school.
The Citizen Lawyer Program initially attracted him to the UI because the program creates opportunities for him to apply what he’s learning in the classroom to his passion.
Enriquez received the 2012-2013 Katherine Finn Milleman Memorial Award which enabled him to serve as an unpaid legal intern for a judge in Washington D.C. this summer. As part of this job, he is researching and writing memoranda about legal issues for the judge. The experience, he said, is a great opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge he learned during his first year of law school to actual legal practice.
At the UI, he is primarily involved in the Iowa Student Bar Association, the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, and as an advisor and house director for Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.
“Unlike many of my classmates, when I go home, I am actually going to my place of employment,” the Topeka, Kansas native said. “Although it might seem like a nightmare scenario for a law student, I have found it to be a refreshing environment because it allows me to practice my counseling and advising skills on a daily basis with a group of students who understand that I have a demanding schedule.”
For the Iowa Student Bar Association, he served as the 1L ECGPS Representative and attended the student government meetings in order to voice the needs, concerns, and opinions of law students. As Law Foundation Representative this coming year, he’ll have the opportunity to provide a student perspective to the Iowa Law Foundation as its Directors work to advance the needs of the Iowa Law through philanthropy.
In 2013-2014, he is serving as the Vice President of the graduate and professional student body. Through this role with ECGPS, he will have the opportunity to provide grants to graduate and professional students and organizations. Additionally, he will advocate for the needs of all graduate and professional students (including law students) to University administrators, the Iowa Board of Regents, and Iowa legislators.
With a diverse group of students already at the UI College of Law School, Enriquez brings another unique perspective to the group.
“Coming straight from a master’s program makes me a little different than most of my classmates,” he said. “Even though it’s quite a bit of schooling, I think earning my master’s before this was beneficial because it helped me understand the rigor of postgraduate work accompanied by working almost full time.”
Enriquez has identified a few goals during law school he hopes to accomplish. First he plans to maintain involvement in higher education administration through participation in the graduate and professional student government. Second, he plans to engage in legal academic work outside of his classes each semester, even if it is something as small as subscribing to legal newsletters or reading law review articles. Finally, he has a concrete goal to get involved in a couple professional organizations, specifically the Iowa State Bar Association and the National Association of College and University attorneys.
“I think it’s important for balance to have other commitments and responsibilities during law school,” he said. “Also, I have found it very important for me to supplement my classroom learning with outside learning, and participating in professional organizations is important because it can serve the dual purposes of education and networking.”