Full marks for UCT's law Fulbrights

26 August 2002
UCT GRADUATE Dee Smythe and final-year law student Jan van Zyl Smit are heading for the Ivy League. They have been awarded Fulbright scholarships for September 2003.

Dee Smythe has her sights set on the Stanford Programme in International Legal Studies as it is a policy-oriented course, and law reform is an important tool for realising social justice in SA. "My interest lies in how best to utilise this tool in order to best give effect to our pressing policy needs," she says.

This emphasis reflects Smythe's background. In her gap years between Wits and UCT, she volunteered as a voter educator. She was also final-year class rep and student rep on the faculty's Institutional Culture Working Group, and remains involved as an advisor on gender issues to NGOs in both the Redhill and Masiphumelele settlements.

She is also involved in local government through her position on the executive committee of her ratepayers' association.

"I believe that the faculty's role has been crucial in preparing us to successfully apply for scholarships of this nature because student leadership and community participation – like the Legal Aid Clinic – is encouraged. I have been a legal aid advisor and am currently involved not only in the training of women at various levels, but also in a substantial research on gender issues," said Smythe, who also tutors students in Comparative Legal History and the Law of Persons and Marriage.

Jan Van Zyl Smit, a final-year LLB student, works in the Legal Aid Clinic and is the President of the Law Students Council. Asked about that specific role he said: "It's been great fun if a lot of work and I've met people outside of my usual social circle.

"I've learnt a lot about working with people and, in fact, about myself and how I react to conflict. I've been fortunate in the Council itself which is a group of really good people."

This Fulbrighter comes from a long line of legal minds, although this did not influence his choice of faculty; in fact his first degree is a maths degree but it was the people-centredness of the discipline that attracted him to law.

He hopes to go to New York University and sit at the feet of Ronald Dworkin and others, as well experience everything that that vibrant location has to offer.

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