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Touro Law Graduates Working as NYS Senate Fellows

It is the first time in our school’s history to have an alum recognized with this distinction, making the selection of two graduates even more impressive.
Touro Law is proud to have two graduates named New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellows. It is the first time in our school’s history to have an alum recognized with this distinction, making the selection of two graduates even more impressive. Morgan Maragliano and Erica Vladimer, members of the Touro Law class of 2013, were both awarded New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellowships, and they both happen to be best friends who met at Touro Law.
New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellowships consist of 16 post-graduate students who are placed within the New York Senate, mostly with Senators, to be trained and work for ten months. The award is quite prestigious and affords many Fellows the opportunity for future work in the government.
We sat down with Morgan & Erica to ask them about their experience as Fellows and their aspirations after they complete the Fellowship program.
1. Tell us about your role as New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellows. What are some of the projects you are working on and what are your day to day tasks?
Morgan: I was placed with Senator Zeldin, whom I also worked with in the District Office from June 2012 until May 2013. The tasks I perform include: drafting bill proposals; drafting a sponsor’s memo for that proposal which is a summary of what the bill seeks to accomplish and a justification (which requires research); keeping abreast of the status of the bill, and accompanying him to the floor when his bills are up for a vote. Senator Zeldin is the chair of the consumer protection committee, which we are also responsible for, those duties include: researching the bills brought to the committee to determine whether the bill would be effective public policy; determining which bills to bring to a vote; being prepared to answer questions of Senators on the Consumer Protection Committee; and conferring with majority counsel to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Erica: I am specifically placed with Senator Jeff Klein (who represents the 34th Districts which covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester). We do so much—we meet with organizations, unions, etc. on behalf of the senator to discuss their budget asks and legislative agendas; we draft reports that highlight aspects of our policy agenda, which provide stats as to why the senator is advocating for certain policy, and outlines the policy proposal- these reports are usually released in conjunction with press conferences, so we will also reach out to non-profits, unions, etc. to get their feedback on the proposals, and work to gain their support and presence at the press conferences. We also represent the IDC at budget tables. Specifically, I sit at the Education and Higher Education budget tables. This is where all the negotiating takes place. The Governor’s people, the Assembly representatives and Senate representatives (i.e. me!) all come together, explain their budget proposals, and then negotiate until ultimately, the state budget is passed by both houses and signed by the Governor.
2. What is the most exciting aspect of being a New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellow?
Erica: I think the most exciting aspect is the fact that we are literally in the trenches. There is so much that I get to be a part of. Even the little things- running into Senators in the elevator, watching Senators interact with one another during committee meetings, seeing the procedural aspects of bill turning into law, hearing peoples’ stories about their experiences. There’s an atmosphere up here that is incomparable. I’m learning to do so much all at once, and there are times where I don’t really recognize that I’m learning, so I tend to surprise myself sometimes.
3. What impact do you think being a New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellow has had on your career path?
Morgan: I think the fellowship has allowed me to see what avenues I can take to work in policy and legislation. I’m learning the inner workings of the Senate and how counsel make decisions regarding which bills to introduce and move through committee. I’m also slowly learning how interest groups impact proposed policy. I hope the fellowship will allow me to make an easy transition into a career at the NYS Senate.
Erica: I think it’s had a significant impact. I came here knowing I may not necessarily focus on Education, and in the beginning, I didn’t. I was so happy when I found out I was placed on the education and higher education budget team. Our lead is extremely knowledgeable and is so open to teaching me. So I guess you could say that the fellowship has solidified my desire to continue working on education policy, and if possible, by working within a government entity.
4. What made you both want to apply to be New York State Post-Graduate Senate Fellows?
Morgan: I applied to the fellowship because at the time I was interning at Senator Zeldin’s district office in Ronkonkoma. He suggested I apply to the fellowship because he knew I wanted to work on policy and legislation, which I would not have the opportunity to do in the district office.
Erica: I didn’t know about the fellowship until Dean Salkin told me about the opportunity. Dean Salkin invited Morgan and I to Albany with her and introduced us to everyone. After the fourth person I spoke to told me what a great opportunity the fellowship is, I knew I had to apply.
5. How did you two meet in law school?

Erica: Morgan and I met about mid-September of our first year (2010) at the Criminal Law meet and greet and soon we became good friends. It was easy to see many- if not all- of the qualities in Morgan that I look for in a friend. We are very similar in most ways, with differing opinions in certain areas, but the comfort between us was immediate.
6. What are some reflections you have as friends who met in law school and have now continued on to Albany together? What does it mean to you?
Morgan: I was extraordinarily lucky to find Erica in law school, because she pulled me out of my shell and helped me to believe I had the power to make a difference. I’ve also never met someone I could have an unbelievable friendship with, as well as an incredible working relationship. I truly believe that the two of us together are unstoppable, complimenting each other’s personality traits, and supplementing where the other is lacking. I hope that someday we can again one day work together creating change outside the walls of Touro.
Erica: It’s really rare to find someone who you can be so close to, and at the same time be able to work really well together. Morgan and I have that, and I think that showed during our time at Touro. Our career goals and dreams coincide so much; we’ve talked about working together in the future, and this fellowship was a great first step for both of us on our own paths. It’s also been very hard to transition from law student to law school grad, and having Morgan here is such a blessing because she knows what I’m going through on a level most couldn’t understand. We are very dedicated to Touro, and being so far away from it hinders our ability to be as active as we’d like to be in an alumni capacity. She understands that nostalgia and that sadness because she feels it too.
7. What activities did you do during your time at Touro Law (either together or separately) that you think contributed to becoming a NYS Senate Fellow?

Erica: I was a representative of the students in the Student Bar Association (SBA), I worked closely with other students organizations, and I drafted policy proposals based on the wants and needs of the student body. Sounds a little governmental, don’t you think?! I LOVED every minute of it, and I know my passion for it was quite noticeable in my interview for the fellowship.
Morgan: I would say the same thing as Erica: SBA. Being on SBA allowed me to develop policy which was designed to improve the lives and educational experience of all Touro students. I think the most significant activity I engaged in at Touro which has helped me in my job was being the student representative on the Curriculum Committee. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on Touro curricular policy while a student, but I also was able to learn how to interact in a professional environment. I learned how to argue my point in a way that would reach my audience, as well as how to think outside the box on means of achieving my goals.
8. Any advice for new law school students or graduating students considering applying to be a NYS Senate Fellow?
Erica: There are things you can ONLY learn as a state government employee. Many fellows tend to stay in state government, though not necessarily in the senate, and they are sought after because they already have experience under their belts. Plus, what you learn here will make you a highly qualified candidate in areas beyond state government, such as lobbying, non-profit advocacy, agency work and local government.

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