Student Profile: Meet First-Year Student Stephanie Mendiola
Stephanie Mendiola moved to D.C. from the island of Guam in July to attend American University Washington College of Law. She developed an interest in the law as a teenager, was involved in student government during middle and high school, and interned multiple times within the executive branch of the Government of Guam.
Mendiola comes from a politically involved family, which helped motivate her to earn a bachelor’s in political science. After obtaining her degree, she began following her passion by obtaining a job in the Guam legislature where she worked for five and a half years.
“I worked for two different senators, in two different parties, over three legislative terms,” said Mendiola.
Mendiola wants to make a difference in the lives of the people in Guam, and raise awareness about Guam, which she said is “a small piece of American paradise in the Pacific, which is too often overlooked.” Seeing the importance of procedure in the operations of the legislative branch of government fueled her interest in understanding the federal government’s practice of administering its territories.
“Going to law school required that I leave my job completely and I loved my job, which is part of what kept me home for a really long time, but I’m looking forward to navigating the issues of political status and self-determination in the nation’s capital,” said Mendiola.
Mendiola strives to figure out how to build an even stronger relationship between the U.S. and the territory of Guam. There is a passion among the people of Guam to recapture their language and culture, but she said it is difficult because many of the younger people do not know their history or the implications of Guam’s political status as a territory.
“The struggle encompasses the issue of our role as a territory, our American patriotism, and the dying off of my native culture and language, Chamorro,” she explained. “All of these intertwine and my misfortune is that I don’t know my island’s history enough to completely understand the context of how all of this is happening, but I can still see that it is all very real.”
She knows she has her work cut out for her, because she has to figure out how to navigate an issue that not many people are working on.
“There are a huge chunk of people in my class who want to do human rights law, immigration law, and intellectual property law," said Mendiola. "My issue fits into different areas in little ways, and I’m wondering how I’m going to be able to navigate law school and figure all of it out.”
According to Mendiola, she chose to attend AUWCL partly because of the school’s D.C. location and its reputation within the nation’s capitol.
“The number one reason was location,” she said. “But knowing that the school has connections with the United Nations and a strong reputation in the realm of government and public interest were additional reasons I chose AUWCL. I believe that these connections can help me navigate my particular interest area, and am excited that AUWCL faculty and staff help students directly tap into those connections.”