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UH Law School's 2017 Patsy Mink Fellow will spend summer working in congressional office

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: May 16, 2017

Stacey Gray '19 and Rep. Della Au Belatti '03
Stacey Gray '19 and Rep. Della Au Belatti '03

Stacey Gray ’19, who spent seven years as an environmental scientist and another two and a half years as a marine fisheries biologist before entering the William S. Richardson School of Law, has been named the 2017 Patsy Mink Fellow.

She will spend the summer working in the office of Hawaiʻi U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa ’77 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., with funds provided by generous donors and the UH Law School.

“Merging my scientific knowledge with legal knowledge could be a powerful tool for change,” said Gray, who was scheduled to leave for D.C. on May 14. In addition to her other legal studies at the William S. Richardson School of Law, she is earning a certificate in Environmental Law and hopes to pursue a career in that field.

Added Gray, “The marriage between law and science is where I see myself operating because sometimes they just don’t understand each other. Hopefully I will be able to bridge that divide. As a former scientist I speak their language.”

Gray was honored at the Law School in a recent ceremony keynoted by Hawai‘i State Rep. Della Au Belatti ’03. Belatti was one of four UH law students who launched the fellowship to honor Mink’s accomplishments and provide opportunities for Hawai‘i law students to spend time in Washington as interns with the state’s congressional delegation. The first intern 15 years ago served in the office of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

This year’s event was organized by 2016 Patsy Mink Fellow Nahelani Webster ’17, who spent last summer serving in the office of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. The internship is supported by Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation, which rotates the internship each year.

Law School Dean Avi Soifer recalled the courage and the accomplishments of the late congresswoman, and added that there is a direct connection to her legacy through the Mink Fellowship.

Said Soifer, “We are proud of the Richardson students who began this program on behalf of those who would follow them. These visionaries such as Della Au Belatti, as well as the Mink Fellows who have benefited from it directly, have continued to honor Patsy Mink directly through their many accomplishments.”

Gray has spent the last decade working in the environmental field between Hawai‘i and Alaska, including for a time as “the eyes and ears of the National Marine Fisheries Service” on fishing boats, as well as spending time in the field in Hawai‘i as a conservation biologist assessing native species.  At one point, she worked for Pono Pacific, on a subcontract with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Army Branch, doing monitoring and conservation work with the Hawaiian native ‘elepaio by locating nests and recording the success of fledglings.

“It was heavy field work, boots on the ground work,” she said. Even during her undergraduate studies at Ohio Northern University, she spent time outdoors doing stream surveys as part of a course in ichthyology – the study of fish science – that first piqued her interest in conservation and the environment. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a Business Option.

Gray expects her summer in D.C. to be eventful. “With the Republican majority there will be environmental regulations potentially coming under fire, and it’s good to have passionate advocates in D.C.,” she said. “It could be important to have people with both legal and scientific training to speak truth to power.”

That very much fits the role exemplified by Congresswoman Mink, who spent her career in politics fighting for civil rights, gender equality, and speaking truth to power until she passed away in 2003.

Mink championed and co-sponsored a portion of the Education Amendments act of 1972, or Title IX, that gives women equal access to opportunities in education. The act was renamed The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act to honor her contributions.

Mink, who served for 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the first woman of color in Congress. Passionate and determined, she was an outspoken advocate of equal rights for women – as well as all minorities – and she sacrificed her own best interests in pursuit of larger goals.

Mink, who faced discrimination and many closed doors as a young woman trying to begin her professional career in Hawai‘i, often said, “I can’t change the past, but I can certainly help somebody else in the future so they don’t have to go through what I did.”

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