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Penn State Law team advances in International Humanitarian Law Competition

The National Security Law Society (NSLS) at Penn State Law in University Park established a team to participate in the 2023 Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition, and took second place in the writing competition in March 2023.
National Security Law Society team

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. –The National Security Law Society (NSLS) at Penn State Law in University Park established a team to participate in the 2023 Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition. The team members are Kaitlyn Boswell and Matthew Finnegan, third-year law students; Jackson Belva, second-year law student; and alternate and team organizer, Jeanette Potter, second-year law student, who is also the Simulation Chair on the NSLS executive board. With Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita Beth Farmer as adviser, the team successfully completed the written part of the competition and will advance to the 10th Annual Competition on March 17-19, in Washington, D.C.

“We’re excited to support our students in this competition. Their hard work and passion for international law has rewarded them with an experiential learning opportunity that only select law students get to experience,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and professor of law.

The Clara Barton Humanitarian Law Competition provides law students with the opportunity to engage in international humanitarian law issues. The scenarios put students in an experiential learning environment to apply humanitarian law in realistic cases. Law schools all around the country can compete, including military law schools. Penn State Law will compete with 14 other teams in-person in Washington.

“My teammates are brilliant, hard-working, and so easy to work with. They know the law so well and can apply it to practice simulations with ease,” said Boswell.

This competition appealed to students in Penn State Law’s NSLS—a group that examines issues that could affect the international and domestic community and the role that international security plays in the legal and international affairs fields, while also helping students who are interested in pursuing a career that involves international law.

“My interest in the competition stems from both the subject matter and the opportunity. I have always been interested in national security and humanitarian law concerns. I joined the National Security Law Society to meet others who shared my interests, after finding Penn State Law's Nat Sec Simulation course so incredibly fun and interesting. This opportunity came up through the National Security Law Society and I am so excited to be able to represent the NSLS and the law school on such a large stage,” said Finnegan.

Potter explained what the team accomplished in the fall to get invited to Washington, D.C. “The first portion of the competition occurred in the fall semester, the team had to write a variety of short answer and essay questions along with an interest statement,” said Potter. “They said this was the largest group of applications they’ve ever received,” she added. The judges grade the applications blind, meaning they don’t know what school wrote the responses.

Belva said, “What excites me the most about this competition is the chance to develop my legal skills further while being able to pursue my interests in international affairs. Working with my teammates has been a great experience and they've had a positive impact on my time at Penn State Law and made me a better student.”

The Clara Barton Humanitarian Law Competition also gives law students the chance to meet and talk to professionals in their desired career paths. Potter said, “The cool thing about this competition is it’s hosted by the Red Cross. They have a huge pool of judges. This is a unique opportunity to meet the people they can bring in to judge. These are the people who you want to work for or say ‘I want to be her when I grow up.’ You’re going to go speak in front of them, spend time with them, [and] listen to them talk about their careers.”

Boswell is excited to compete but is also ready to attend all the networking events occurring at the competition. “The competition coordinators have included several learning opportunities intertwined with the simulation rounds. In addition, all of the judges either work in this area of law or are experts in the field. I look forward to connecting with and learning from these professionals,” she said.

UPDATE: In March 2023, the Penn State Law in University Park team took second place in the writing competition.

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