Pre-Law Senior Honored in National Essay Competition

WASHINGTON, Pa. (April 2, 2013)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior Heather Painter placed third in the “Think Transatlantic” national essay competition just weeks after receiving honorable mention recognition at the Harvard Model United Nations Conference.

A triple major in English, German and political science, Painter’s essay focused on the impact of German energy policy on U.S. energy policy. The South Park (Pa.) High School graduate was recognized at a conference at the Germany Embassy in Washington, D.C., that brought together students from across the country to celebrate “Think Transatlantic” campus weeks sponsored by the German Information Center USA.

Two dozen finalists presented their ideas on how to foster transatlantic partnership between the U.S. and Germany and shared their vision of the future of transatlantic relations.

“Now, in an age where we are noticing the tangible and detrimental consequences of human impact on the environment, especially with climate change, it is time that we as Americans and Germans alike turn our attention to a shared responsibility, our responsibility to protect the world in which we both live,” Painter wrote in her essay.

She said that one of the most important aspects of a transatlantic partnership, as both countries share, is learning from one another.

“The United States must work on not only the development of legislation that will incentivize citizens, businesses and corporation to use renewable resources, it must also work towards making an energy and the environment a human rights issue, not one that can be limited
to a particular party or political ideology,” Painter wrote.

A Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Painter plans on deferring her law school acceptance to accept an assignment as a Mississippi Delta Corps member for Teach for America, designed to enlist, for two-year terms, high-achieving college graduates to teach in low-income communities. Teach for America accepts, on average, less than 15 percent of applicants.

Painter has studied abroad in Germany three times. She is a former president of the German Club and is passionate about energy policy and renewable resources. But she wants to teach, at least for now.

“To have the opportunity to teach in underprivileged school districts, to do something not a lot of people have the opportunity to do, is very special to me,” Painter said. “I have had a great education and I want to help others enjoy the same.”

How has W&J prepared her to succeed?

“W&J is such a small school, where valuable feedback and support is all around. Professors have been there for me and small classrooms have prepared me well for things like public speaking and debate,” Painter said. “W&J is close to home and the liberal arts education here has prepared me for anything life throws at me.”