WSU Law School student enjoyed time on Capitol Hill

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
     
Lydia Munn’s interest in politics was piqued at age 13, watching MSNBC with her father.

“He explained the political system to me in a way that made sense to the real world,” she said. “It was no longer in the abstract. I could see our government at work — or at least on television. The excitement each night was enticing. My interest grew from there.”
That passion led to her working in the nation’s capital, after earning her undergraduate degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from the University of Michigan.

She first moved to D.C. with an internship for a nonprofit established by the Obama administration.

The office was in downtown D.C. and Munn attended meetings with the executive branch in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), next door to the White House.

“Through the internship, I got a West Wing tour and I knew I was on the right track,” she said.

Munn then found full-time employment as a development associate through the Joint Center for Political and Economic Students, a think tank focused on policies affecting Black people. 

“That’s something that spoke directly to my consciousness,” she said. “The work was fulfilling but challenging.”

When a full-time entry-level position on Capitol Hill opened up for a Michigan senator, Munn jumped at the opportunity. 

“I killed the interview out of 200 applicants, and I started my career in the federal government,” she said. “I was with all the people I watched on MSNBC for years. Funny enough, that was the only channel on in the Senate office all day.

“At each job I met amazing people I still have relationships with to this day. Each experience built upon the last. It isn’t easy making genuine connections in very competitive environments, but I was able to thrive. My time there helped define me professionally.”

Munn saw all of the U.S. senators and was able to speak with some.

“Many are exactly as they appear on TV,” she said. “Once, Senator Elizabeth Warren complimented me on my lei after the Hawaiian delegation had their annual Hawaii celebration—a highly anticipated event for Hill staffers with Spam, BBQ sauce, and Hawaiian rolls.”

At an event for Black staffers, Munn met all three Black senators — Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Tim Scott — who spoke about their camaraderie and the importance of the staffers being there.

“I have great respect for each of them,” Munn said. “I worked the front desk of our office, so I got to see and talk to everyone that came in to meet with the senator.

“Another time, when my family came to visit me at work for a tour of the Capitol, we had lunch in the Senate Dining Room and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski from ‘Morning Joe’ were having lunch at the same time as Ivanka Trump, separately.”

Away from work, Munn enjoyed her leisure time in D.C.

“Brunch on Sundays is a must,” she said. “There’s a huge happy hour culture, so my friends and I spent hours tracking down free food around the city.”

Now a 2L student at Wayne State University Law School, Munn has always been interested in government and how society works.

“The law is a huge part of that — it establishes these parameters that we all operate under without really even knowing what they are,” she said. “I’ve also had a passion to learn from a young age so continuing my education was always in my plans.”

While still very interested in policymaking and legislation, law school has exposed her to many opportunities within the legal career. Her current interests also include municipality and corporations. Long term, she sees herself working at the intersection of government and private business. 

Munn touts Wayne Law—where she is a Damon J. Keith Scholar, Wade McCree Scholar, member of the Women’s Law Caucus, research assistant for the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic, and a volunteer for Michigan Youth in Government Legislative Oversight — as a cultural and academic hub.

“Being located in Detroit is a big reason why I chose to go to Wayne Law,” she said. “Wayne Law also has amazing faculty. It truly is a gem within the city.”

This past summer she interned for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, observing Zoom hearings and drafting opinions for the judge.

“I enjoyed learning about the judges,” she said. “We attended virtual luncheons where they shared their paths to the bench.”

As vice president of the Black Law Students Association, Munn enjoys working with her executive board.

“We’ve become a family,” she says. “During my first year, BLSA members were always there to reassure me I was on the right track. BLSA helps to build confidence in Black law students, especially those that are first generation lawyers.”

She has been coping well with the pandemic crisis.

“At the beginning of quarantine, I watched a lot of Rick and Morty and stared at the wall, but eventually I found a routine,” she said.

Munn recently taught a donation-based class to raise money for Detroit Heals Detroit, a nonprofit that works toward healing the trauma of young people within the city. She also works with Yoganic Flow and offers free and affordable yoga to the communities in Detroit.

She has many happy memories of an undergraduate study aboard trip, working as an English tutor at an English-speaking university in Izmir, Turkey.

“Visiting the Hagia Sophia is definitely at the top of my list, originally built as a Christian cathedral in 537 and converted into a mosque with the rise of the Ottoman Empire,” she said. “It’s beautiful to see the visual overlap of history, with depictions of Christ amongst traditional Islamic architectural structures.”

A native of Detroit’s west side, Munn now lives on the east side with her mother, brother and sister. Her grandmother in Arizona stays with the family during the summer months.

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