Third-year students Emily Bell and Marrissa Pasker and second-year student Johnny Nguyen have something in common: they all had Professor Mark Kende for Constitutional Law and credit his teaching with sparking their interests in diving deeper into important constitutional issues as research assistants (RA). Research assistants can explore new and emerging areas of law that they might not otherwise be able to dig into, while developing all important research and writing skills.

As director of the Drake Constitutional Law Center, Professor Kende is expected to contribute to academic discourse in the field and is often invited to present at conferences and symposia. His RAs help identify, read, and summarize journal articles and key U.S. Supreme Court cases related to his current topic of study.

Emily Bell and Marrissa Pasker conducted research on abortion rights. Emily identified opposing abortion arguments to help Professor Kende prepare a speech on the Dobbs case for a symposium last spring. “I enjoyed reading and researching sources on both sides of the abortion issue, as well as hearing Professor’s Kende’s insights and takeaways from my research,” said Emily. Marrissa’s work focused on the scientific and technical aspects of abortions, birth control, and fetal development. “The most interesting aspect of my work was learning the science,” said Marissa. “It’s important to have facts to back up your beliefs and opinions.” She also found it interesting to see both ends of the spectrum of beliefs.

Johnny Nguyen was tasked with researching artificial intelligence as it relates to constitutional issues. “It’s very interesting to consider the arguments I encountered in my research,” said Johnny. “For instance, the arguments on applying legal rights onto non-human entities are fascinating.” Johnny’s research will support Professor Kende’s upcoming scholarship on the subject.

In addition to exploring challenging topics, the students agree that their experiences helped develop their research and time management skills, important skills to help them hit the ground running when they graduate. “I have experience conducting legal and non-legal research to find information to support an argument or belief, which is a critical skill to have as a lawyer,” noted Marrissa. Johnny added, “A large part of a lawyer’s job is to do thorough research, so the more practice I get, the more I can show off my research skills to potential employers.”

“Being a research assistant was a positive experience,” said Emily. “I enjoyed collaborating with Professor Kende on a tough topic. I encourage anyone interested in developing their professional skills to apply for an RA position.”