NDLS Program on Church, State & Society Awards Summer Fellowships

Author: Denise Wager

Jessen Baker, Samantha Scheuler, and Kristina Semeryuk, Notre Dame Law School Church, State & Society Fellowship Award
Church, State & Society Fellowship Award winners Jessen Baker, Samantha Scheuler, and Kristina Semeryuk

The Notre Dame Law School Program on Church, State & Society has awarded three summer fellowships to first-year law students Jessen Baker, Samantha Scheuler, and Kristina Semeryuk. Each will receive a $10,000 fellowship award to work for a religious institution in a legal capacity this summer.

Baker will be working at the religious-institutions practice of the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I am excited for this opportunity both to see how what I learn about in the classroom plays out in the context of a law firm and also to learn more about how religious institutions interact with the law,” Baker said. “I hope to finish the summer with a better idea of how the law and faith, two of my passions, can work together.”

Scheuler will spend the summer at the Office of the General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

“I chose Notre Dame for law school because I wanted my Catholic faith to inform the kind of lawyer I was to become,” Scheuler said. “I feel very fortunate to attend an institution that is unapologetically Catholic. At the USCCB this summer, I look forward to learning more about the intersection between law, religion, and society and how I might work as an attorney to ensure greater religious liberty for people of all faiths.”

Semeryuk’s fellowship will be at Bryte Church, a Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento, Calif. There are more than 2,000 church members who are primarily immigrants, including some with first-generation children born in America. Semeryuk said that the church currently does not have an attorney on staff because there has not been a person in the community who both understands the Russian ties and culture and holds a law degree, but in the future an on-staff attorney will be necessary.

“As a summer fellow I will experience and assist in reviewing and negotiating legal documents,” Semeryuk said. “This fantastic opportunity will allow me to put the knowledge I have learned all year in class to be the different kind of lawyer I came to Notre Dame to be.”

Richard Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl / Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law and Director of the Program on Church, State & Society, said he had a strong pool of applicants for this fellowship.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for these students to get exposure in the area of religious-institutions practice and explore the many legal options that combine religion in our society,” Garnett said.

Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society focuses on the role of religion in society and how law structures these relationships. In conjunction with the University’s other colleges and centers, the program hosts conferences, workshops and other programs and is committed to increasing legal scholarship in order to promote dialogue on the interaction of these two dynamic — and often colliding — aspects of society.