Patrick Schaefer (`09) has always been driven by a relentless curiosity about the world beyond his borders. After having grown up in the anglophone culture of Maryland’s eastern shore, he took advantage of an opportunity to spend his junior year at the Santa Fe campus of St. John's College, where he began his personal, academic and professional relationship with Latin America and Iberia.
When Thanksgiving weekend arrived that year, he boarded a bus for Mexico City to visit a friend. Despite a minimal command of Spanish, he found many things to talk about with the bus driver during the rest stops that punctuated the 36-hour sojourn, and that trip was the start of a lasting relationship with Mexico.
He returned to Mexico several times, first to work for an NGO, Voluntários Internacionales de México, then as a journalist in Mexico City and later for the research of his MA thesis at Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Most recently, he spent his fourth semester of law school at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City.
"I was always interested in knowing the people I shared space on the continent with, our neighbors - who they were, their different perspectives and way of life," says Schaefer, who earned his J.D. in 2009. "One reason I went to law school was to understand the political and legal structures and concepts that underlie the norms of the Ibero-American states."
For its geographical, historical and cultural centrality to this world, UNM was a perfect choice for his graduate school career. He began his post-graduate project with an M.A. degree at UNM, emphasizing the political-historical study of post-revolutionary state formation in the Iberian and American states. He then entered law school to concentrate more closely on the impact that regional integration has had on the commercial and environmental law in these same countries.
During law school, he focused on international arbitration and the alternative resolution of contractual disputes. H has also investigated the role that such principles of arbitration and conciliation can have on the management of shared natural resources.
He published two articles on the nascent transboundary water law between these countries, one about U.S. federal law and the aquifers along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as one concerning the shared freshwater resources along the Brazil-Uruguay border.
The article on the Brazil-Uruguay water was made possible by a FIPSE grant from the U.S. Department of Education, financing a semester at the University of São Paulo where Schaefer spent his sixth and final semester of law school. Nevertheless, the project of these countries that he began during his master's degree would have remained incomplete without the study of these legal questions in an Iberian context.
Schaefer is now in Lisbon, Portugal as a Fulbright scholar, enrolled in an LL.M. program at the Catholic University of Portugal. His one-year study in Portugal will concern the role that international economic and legal integration have exercised on the principles of arbitration and dispute resolution in Portuguese law after the revolution of 1974.
Following his year in Portugal, he would like to return to Capitol Hill, where he spent the summer before his last year of law school as an intern for then Congressman Tom Udall (`77), as an adviser on issues of international commercial and environmental law.
"Most of all, I would like to be a bridge, an intermediary between our country and the peoples and another country, particularly those with whom we share the Western Hemisphere," he says. "I have been given so much, that working in the service of such cooperation and contribute all that I have had the good fortune to learn would indeed be a true joy.”