By Jenny WhalenMay 16, 2014
Ananda Burra is of two minds. A student of international law and history, his academic interest in these fields is matched only by his professional desire to engage the policy they influence. Come fall, these parallel tracks will intersect as Burra assumes a prestigious traineeship with the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
A 2014 University of Michigan Law School graduate, Burra will start his traineeship in September, serving Judges Joan E. Donoghue of the United States and Giorgio Gaja of Italy. While his primary tasks will be to assist the judges in conducting research, preparing case files, and drafting various types of documents, Burra expects the experience will also inform his PhD dissertation on the history of international law.
"Professionally and academically, international law is at the center of my work," said Burra, whose U-M dissertation tracks the development of public international law from the 1920s to the 1960s, focusing on the transition from the League of Nations to the United Nations. "This is a tremendous opportunity to go to the ICJ, to gain inside knowledge of the institution, and to see firsthand how international conflict resolution happens."
Michigan Law is among a select group of top law schools around the world that are eligible to nominate students—be they final-year JDs, LLMs, or recent graduates—to the Court.
Following the 10-month traineeship, Burra will remain in Europe with the support of Michigan Law's Clara Belfield-Henry Bates Overseas Fellowship, doing research for an academic article while based in the United Kingdom.
"I really feel like I have benefited hugely from the dual degree," said Burra, who also holds a master's degree in history from U-M. "I'm really grateful for the interdisciplinary opportunities at Michigan that have allowed me to meld my two degrees—JD and PhD—together."
A contributing editor of the Michigan Law Review and research assistant to Prof. Mathias Reimann, the Hessel E. Yntema Professor of Law, Burra also participated in a number of pro bono projects during his time at Michigan Law.
But for all of these experiences, Burra said he most appreciated those that allowed him to interact closely with his peers.
"The most valuable thing for me, inside the classroom and out, has been to get to know some close friends who care deeply about bringing about change in the world," he said. "Their passion is so clear; it has been inspirational for me. As someone steeped in academia, being a part of their lives and seeing what they've done has shaped who I am and who I hope to be."
While Burra plans to spend the next two years completing his dissertation and writing on broader academic questions of international law, he is confident that his experience at the ICJ will only confirm the dual nature of his interests.
"I am an academic, but I would never feel satisfied just doing that," he said. "I want to be engaged in international conflict resolution and international law. My career is at the intersection of academia and practice."
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