This month we catch up with Shannon Mercer, a 2007 St. John’s graduate, who after graduating with an A.B. cum laude from Princeton University, continued her education at Georgetown Law and graduated with her J.D. cum laude this year.
What year did you graduate from St. John’s School?
What did you do the year following High School graduation?
I began my undergraduate degree at Princeton University. I graduated from Princeton in 2011 with an A.B. cum laude in Politics and certificates in Near Eastern Studies and Arabic Language and Culture.
Can you tell us about the career path you chose after college?
I don’t think it’s fair to say that I made a career choice immediately after college and, although I graduated from college about 6 years ago, I suspect that I have yet to make a real “career choice” in any conventional sense. But I can tell you what I did. I spent two years at Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund located in Connecticut. I left Bridgewater and joined Incandescent, a management consulting firm in Manhattan. Near the end of my term at Bridgewater and throughout my employment at Incandescent, I finalized my plans to attend law school. (While I wasn’t certain that I wanted to be a lawyer, I knew that I’d enjoy studying the law.) I began at Georgetown Law in 2014 and graduated with my J.D. cum laude in May 2017.
Outside of work, what other activities/organizations are you involved in?
I’m active in my college alumni community, having served as a class annual giving (fundraising) chairperson for 5 years and conducting alumni admissions interviews. While in law school, I worked on a number of international development and international law projects, I was the editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Journal of International Law, and I wrote for Lawfare (a national security blog run in cooperation with the Brookings Institution).
What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
I am currently in a year-long position as the National Security Law Associate at the Hoover Institution, a Stanford University think tank. I am also the Managing Editor of Lawfare. I love the dynamism of the job. Lawfare and Hoover are at the cutting edge of national security discourse; I am constantly challenged and constantly learning.
How did you become interested in your field of study or work?
Since writing my undergraduate senior thesis on the international law applicable to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, I’ve been interested in working on all types of cross-border issues. International political and legal issues often surface novel questions – questions that require an interdisciplinary understanding of geopolitics, history, language, and culture. A lawyer working on international law, foreign relations law, or national security law will often be a key player in any policy decision, crisis, or innovative project. I’m only just starting but it’s already exhilarating to credibly and thoughtfully participate in high-level discussions about global issues. (I’m also unabashedly consumed by wanderlust: the international law and policy work I’ve done has taken me to Cairo, Lichtenstein, Jerusalem, London and Paris.)
How has attending St. John’s prepared you for success in college and in the workplace?
St. John’s taught me a lot about the value of “grit” (in an Angela Duckworth sense). I don’t know that I would have the same work-ethic and perseverance had I not attended such a demanding school.
Do you still keep in touch with your St. John’s School friends?
Yes! Admittedly, I’m not as “in touch” as I’d like but a number of us stay close with all of the tools of ambient intimacy (Facebook, text messages, snap chat, etc.). I’m happy to continue to have SJS students in my life; I’m constantly amazed by their accomplishments.
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