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UW-Eau Claire Alumnus Lands
Assignment at United Nations

RELEASED: Aug. 11, 2005

Luke SwanepoelEAU CLAIRE — A recent alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will have a ringside seat at the United Nations Summit where many of the world's leaders will discuss reform of the U.N. Sept. 14-16 in New York City.

Luke Swanepoel, a 2002 UW-Eau Claire graduate who went on to complete a law degree at the University of St. Thomas Law School, was recently chosen for an internship with the office of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Serving as an observer during the summit on U.N. reform is just the first of the duties Swanepoel will perform on behalf of the Pope during his ten month internship. After the summit, he will attend meetings of the General Assembly with visiting academics from around the world who specialize in the topics being discussed, and he will also represent the Holy See at various subcommittee meetings.

"As of now, I will likely be serving on the Arms Proliferation Subcommittee and the Palestinian Refugee Subcommittee," said Swanepoel, noting that he will be responsible for reporting on the proceedings at the General Assembly and the various committee meetings, writing position papers, and using his knowledge of the process of law to advise the Vatican's representative on how best to pursue the Holy See's objectives concerning a variety of issues.

The Apostolic Nuncio at the U.N., Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who was appointed ambassador to the U.N. by Pope John Paul II in October 2002, is the representative of the Pope to whom Swanepoel will report. Archbishop Migliore interviewed Swanepoel himself, but only after the 25-year-old from Glenwood City had completed a long line of what he described as "slightly arduous" interviews with the dean of the St. Thomas Law School, several political science professors and deans from the undergraduate campus at St. Thomas, and the university's president, Father Dennis Deese. According to Swanepoel, the interviews required "at least a decent understanding of the world community, church teachings and current events."

"The questions ranged from how the World Bank and United Nations should interact to promote development, to how Catholic teachings can serve as a unique and unifying voice at the United Nations," said Swanepoel, noting that by the time he got to the last interview the Archbishop had read his file and asked only a few questions, spending more time giving him information and speaking about what his living and working conditions would be like.

Swanepoel will live in a townhouse owned by the Mission and located about seven blocks from the U.N., and he admits to being a little nervous about living in the heart of New York City. Although he has visited the city several times before, he said he will now have to learn the intricacies of public transportation and deal with knowing he can't easily escape the city and seek refuge in the country.

"Even now I don't know if it seems real, because I'm just a farm kid from a small town," said Swanepoel. "There will be a lot of people who are very talented and intelligent at this job, and I just hope that I can bring something to the table."
Several people who knew and worked with Swanepoel during his years at UW-Eau Claire, when he was double majoring in history and political science with an emphasis on Middle Eastern Studies, have expressed confidence in his ability to do just that.

Associate professor of history Dr. Kate Lang said she was not one bit surprised by Swanepoel's prestigious assignment.

"A lot of our history majors are bright, kind, hard-working students," said Lang. "But I have not had a student at UW-Eau Claire who worked harder, had more integrity, or was more curious about the world around him then Luke. I am proud that he is one of our alumni."

Swanepoel, in turn, credited both Lang, who specializes in the history of the Middle East, and Dr. Ali Abootalebi, associate professor of political science department, with influencing him in his choice of studies.

"I worked on a faculty research project with Dr. Abootalebi and was a teacher assistant for Dr. Lang," said Swanepoel. "Both of these experiences gave me an opportunity to understand the rigors of academic life and appreciate the fact that they both truly cared how their students did in class and in their lives. In fact, looking back, I think I took every class that both of them taught."

Swanepoel also served as the liturgy team coordinator at the Newman Catholic Parish at UW-Eau Claire from 1999 until 2002. Father George Szews, who still keeps in touch with Swanepoel, was the first person on campus to get the news about Swanepoel's new job and was very eager to let others on campus know about his success.

"Luke was a great asset to our campus ministry program when he worked for us at the Newman Parish," said Szews. "He was congenial, well-read, thoughtful and attempted to integrate his university experience with real life. Luke never stopped reading and he never stopped engaging other people in conversation. Those are two good qualities of a leader," Szews said.

Working at the Newman Parish is something of a family affair for the Swanepoel family. According to Szews, brother Lee currently has the job Swanepoel held for several years, and his sister Vanessa is one of the music coordinators for the parish.

"They are a family committed to their faith and to service," said Szews. "One of Luke's best qualities was his keen sense of volunteerism. He was really raised to be a contributor to the common good."

Swanepoel is working as a law clerk for the Ramsey County District Attorney's office in St. Paul until his move to New York just after Labor Day. He expects that by the time the internship at the U.N. ends he will know whether he enjoys living in New York and wants to look for other opportunities there. If not, he plans to return to Minnesota or West Central Wisconsin and begin practicing law.


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