Business Insider lists Brian Klosterboer ’12 as one of the most impressive students at Harvard Law School

Posted by Centre News in Alumni, Centre In The News, Fellowships and Honors, International Studies, News 24 Oct 2013

Business Insider recently released a list of the 18 most impressive students at Harvard Law School, and Brian Klosterboer ’12, the only first-year on the list, made the cut—though anyone who knew him during his time at Centre would not be surprised.

Klosterboer was extremely active and involved as an undergraduate, serving as Student Government Association president, working as a writer for The Cento, the college newspaper, and completing a prestigious John C. Young directed research project on transitional justice in the Congo. He cites all three of these activities as key elements of his Centre experience that not only gained him a Fulbright research fellowship in Uganda but also gave him the skills he needed to succeed while there.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to design an independent research project in Uganda if I hadn’t spent a year researching transitional justice in the Congo through the John C. Young Program,” Klosterboer says. “There is very little oversight for a Fulbright research fellowship, and I only had two email connections when I arrived in Uganda. If I hadn’t spent a year working with Dr. Lori Hartmann-Mahmud and co-authoring an article in African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, it would’ve been a lot more difficult to organize a research project on my own.”

Klosterboer in UgandaWhile the John C. Young Program gave him the drive and experience to spearhead his Ugandan research as a Fulbright, his time as a Cento writer and editor was also extremely helpful.

“Even though The Cento only comes out twice a month,” he explains, “the basics of writing and editing are the same for any newspaper, so the experience I had was enough for me to get an internship on the news-desk of Uganda’s largest independent newspaper.”

Klosterboer’s time at The Daily Monitor was tumultuous to say the least.

“One of the craziest moments in Kampala was when the newspaper I worked for was shut down by the police for 11 days,” he recalls. “The senior reporter I interned for wrote an article criticizing the president’s son, who is a general in the military. Because President Musveni has been in power for 27 years, the regime is becoming increasingly sensitive to criticism and has started clamping down on the media.

“It was exciting for me to be in the newsroom watching the police search for documents,” he adds, “but also scary, because some of my colleagues were being followed at night by the police. At one point, I disregarded the advice of the U.S. Embassy and joined in a protest against the media closure. There wasn’t any tear gas while I was there, but many of my colleagues were tear-gassed and arrested.”

Writing for the newspaper was only one project Klosterboer undertook while overseas. He also helped Ugandan friend Jakob Suuda open his own bar and restaurant.

Suuda was instrumental in getting Klosterboer settled in Kampala, showing him around the city and helping him acquire a cell phone and internet access. Suuda nursed a long-time dream of opening his own bar and restaurant, but the project kept running into financial roadblocks.

“I had some money saved up from tuning pianos in high school and college,” Klosterboer says, “so I thought maybe I could invest in Jakob’s restaurant and help him get started.”

Little did Klosterboer know that his investment in the restaurant would involve much more than money.

“I ended up spending about 12 hours a day working at the restaurant for the next four months,” he says. “I had no idea what I was doing, but it’s amazing how a liberal arts education has prepared me and my classmates to do random things all over the world.”

Klosterboer enjoyed the creative aspects of his time there, from inventing cocktails and designing menus to creating a website, planning events and parties, and talking to guests from all over the world.

While this whirlwind of political unrest and ad hoc entrepreneurship might be overwhelming to some, Klosterboer credits his time studying abroad in Shanghai in 2010 and Cameroon in 2011 as instrumental in teaching him how to adapt and flourish abroad.

“I count these trips as two of my most valuable experiences at Centre,” he says. “They helped me fall in love with traveling, taught me how to befriend people from other continents and showed me how to be independent.”

As if being a star student at Centre and an international journalist-turned-entrepreneur was not enough, Klosterboer returned stateside to attend one of the most prestigious law schools in the nation. Klosterboer credits much of this success to others who have invested in his life, including the faculty and staff at Centre.

“I really can’t credit Centre enough for helping me find my way,” he says. “The thing I value most, and might have taken for granted while I was there, is the undivided attention that professors give their students. Being able to walk into a professor’s office and have a personal and extended conversation is almost unimaginable to my classmates from larger universities.

“So far, the workload at Harvard has not been much more than what we faced at Centre,” Klosterboer continues. “I see now that there was a reason professors assigned so much reading and expected us to discuss it intelligently in class. I’m obviously biased, but I think the faculty at Centre couldn’t do a better job preparing students for grad school.”

In just the first few years after graduating from Centre, Klosterboer has traveled thousands of miles, from Africa to New England. Yet no matter how far afield from his alma mater he travels, his connection to Centre remains, for him, at the core of his successes.

“One benefit of going to a liberal arts college is that you don’t graduate with a specific skill-set that can only be applied to a single career path,” he explains. “Learning how to read, write, think critically and communicate with other people are general skills that you can apply to whatever you do.”

Klosterboer plans to pursue a career in public interest litigation after graduating from law school.

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