Elizabeth P. Walsh heads the Public Service Project at Washington University, where she works to get students interested in and committed to performing public service.
What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? I was twice voted Staff Person of the Year by the student body. I was so honored to be recognized by them. I’m also very proud of the partnership we’ve formed with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. For over 10 years, law students have mentored “Littles” in the St. Louis Public School District. I think the law students benefit from the relationship as much as their “littles.” Additionally, I’m tremendously proud of the Public Service Advisory Board (PSAB), a group which I used to advise. When I started my job at Wash U Law, it was a small of group of about 10 students that supported student groups and students in their own public service projects. Today, PSAB administers the law school’s pro bono pledge, allocates funds to student organizations to support their service projects, hosts programs on public service and generally contributes to the public service culture at the law school. The students involved in PSAB are incredibly inspiring to me and others in the law school.
What inspired you to get involved in the justice system? I’ve always been committed to helping others and it was learning about CASA (now Voices for Children) that inspired me to go to law school. My mom was a CASA volunteer for several years while I was in high school and college, and CASA is my sorority’s philanthropy. I decided to go to law school so that I could advocate for children. I served as a GAL while I was in law school and it was an amazing experience.
What is something that would surprise people about you? I went to law school to “save the children” and then ultimately decided that I didn’t want to be a practicing attorney. I started working at Wash U Law right after I graduated from law school, which was the right choice for me, but that meant I wasn’t going to save the children in the literal sense. However, that changed four years ago when my husband and I adopted our oldest son from less than ideal circumstances. I like to think that we positively impacted the life of one child and maybe that’s the best way to make lasting change.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received? The best advice I’ve received, which is advice I give to others, comes from my mom — You are responsible for your own happiness. When unexpected or unwanted circumstances arise, you can choose to be miserable or you can choose look for the positive in them and ways to make them better.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be? I wanted to be lots of things — a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a psychologist. I feel lucky that my job now allows be to periodically be all of those things.