From an early age, Jenny Reich was taught to value public service. Her mother’s family escaped Cuba as Fidel Castro came to power after her father’s family had escaped Austria and the rise of Adolf Hitler. Familial connection to the impacts of totalitarianism instilled in her a sense of the importance of civic engagement, and gratitude for an American system where even small voices could be heard.
Jenny drew upon her convictions as a high school student, calling the 120 California state legislators to find sponsors for a bill she proposed to diversify the state history curriculum. Her persistence paid off, and AB 2325 won sponsorship from seven legislators and organizations like the Girl Scout Councils of California. Although the bill eventually stalled during the 2008 California budget crisis, the experience was eye-opening. “It was incredible,” Jenny recalls, “how a teenager could show up in the state capitol with an idea to change people’s lives, and the government would actually listen.”
The experience sparked a lifelong drive to, in Jenny’s words, “bridge the gap between those who make policy and those who live it.” As a political science student at Arizona State University, Jenny studied democratic deliberation, bringing together communities to attempt to address divisive and complex policy issues like the Israel-Palestine conflict and immigration. “My experiences with democratic deliberation gave me insight into the nature of policy compromise and how passionate, opposing interest groups could interact constructively,” says Jenny.
She carried these lessons as she pursued broader public policy experience, seeking to “gain a better understanding of the functioning of government from multiple angles, as well as [her] own place in public service.” With internships at the Environmental Protection Agency’s San Francisco office, the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador, and the White House National Economic Council, Jenny affirmed her aspirations: “I was excited by many aspects of public service, but I particularly enjoyed the listening, the analyzing, the intellectual breadth, and the sense of communal empowerment of making policy. I realized I wanted to pursue a career that might one day lead me to generate and implement policy on a large scale.”
Getting to that destination point, though, would require further schooling, and brought Jenny to Penn Law. Making the choice to go to law school was straightforward. As Jenny put it: “Foreign service officers, Department of Justice prosecutors, congressional committee staffers, human rights advocates—so many of the jobs I found most exciting were often held by lawyers.” Many of her mentors during her undergraduate internships had been trained as lawyers as well. And the breadth of the JD degree was appealing too: “I thought a legal background would provide me credibility to work on a wide range of policy issues.” Choosing Penn had other specific advantages. While its proximity to Washington, DC was a plus, even more compelling was what Jenny calls the “manifest commitment to collegiality” at Penn Law. “The first year of law school is a grueling, if rewarding, experience, and I wanted to spend it somewhere kind and supportive,” Jenny explains. “I could tell from my first visit that the Penn Law community was tight-knit and really special, something I wanted to be part of.” The availability of dual-degree options also allowed Jenny to go down a new intellectual pathway she hadn’t initially foreseen for herself. During her third year of law school, she added the MBA degree to her repertoire—a decision driven largely by her observations of the many ways in which knowledge of the private sector could benefit her public sector aspirations. “In terms of skills, the MBA provides an understanding of economics and finance, as well as a business vocabulary useful to connecting with private sector leaders and better grasping their priorities. As a platform, I thought the MBA would provide a salient external signal that I had management potential and that I appreciated the practical realities of policy implementation for future work in government.”
Jenny has demonstrated that leadership capacity and ongoing commitment to social good through her extracurricular commitments in school. She was instrumental in reviving the Penn Law National Security Society and establishing a relationship with the Georgetown University National Security Simulation, opening an avenue for Penn Law students to further engage with the national security community. She served as President of the Latin American Law Students Association, during which time the organization sponsored over 50 events, including a daylong conference on immigration culminating with the Philadelphia premiere of a documentary on migrant workers, the club’s first Spring Break service trip, and its first support program helping more Black and Hispanic/Latinx law students become editors of the school’s prestigious Law Review. In addition, she has applied her fluency in Spanish toward advancing social justice on multiple fronts, staffing a Spanish-language voter protection hotline, helping noncitizen violent crime victims apply for U visas after cooperating with law enforcement, working at Spanish-language FEMA clinics for Puerto Rican hurricane victims, and doing Spanish translation for the Women’s Law Project. In 2017, Jenny also was a member of the winning team in the 4th annual Public Policy Initiative Case Competition, which focused on promoting financial inclusion among Americans who have been underserved by mainstream financial institutions. In all, “I’ve involved myself in activities where I think I can help the Penn community and where I can learn to be a more effective policymaker,” she says.
At the same time, Jenny has used her summers to continue building a foundation for a career in public service. She interned in the summer of 2016 at the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, working with the South America team in the Office of International Affairs. There, she assisted with the coordination of international criminal matters, including evidence gathering and extraditions, again deploying her Spanish language skills. Jenny returned to Washington the following summer to intern at Covington and Burling, LLP. The firm appealed to her not only because of their reputation for top-notch legal work but also for their “incredible track record of public service and community commitment.” For instance, they currently represent the University of California system in suing the Trump Administration to protect DACA students. Much of Jenny’s work there related to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a little-known inter-agency government body that reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in the US. “CFIUS is in many ways a risk management tool, and a key connector between the private sector and national security, putting it at the crossroads of many thorny emerging issues,” Jenny observes. It is also “one of the few truly bipartisan causes in Congress today, which is exciting because it means there’s room to get things done. In fact, a massive overhaul of CFIUS passed over the summer, and new regulations to reshape the Committee’s work are being developed.” Jenny has continued to explore CFIUS-related issues while at Penn, working with Professor Emilie Feldman at Wharton on an academic paper about CFIUS and the future of cross-border mergers and acquisitions.
As intellectually engaging as the work at Covington was, part of what made it special was the quality of people she got to work with there. That is a primary reason she will be returning to Covington full-time when she graduates from Penn in May with her JD and MBA degrees. “Many Covington lawyers have served as top public servants, like former Attorney General Eric Holder, and I am excited to find a place with such strong role models for my own aspirations to public service.”