Law student Madalin Rooker fights for gender equity at summer job


Aug 10, 2021 | Student

As a student athlete during her early undergraduate years, Madalin Rooker was introduced to Title IX and the role it plays in making college and universities more equitable places.

Title IX is a federal law that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This aligned with Rooker’s values and gave her the desire to have a career focused on Title IX work.

“I am passionate about a lot of different social problems and causes, and I wanted to go to law school to find a way to address those issues and be a force for change in society,” she said. “But my desire to eventually go into Title IX work was the main driver behind my decision to attend law school and become an attorney.”

During her time as an undergrad at the U, Rooker was president of the Women in Business organization. In this role, she coordinated Title IX-related events with the U’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA) and worked directly with Sherrie Hayashi, the director of the OEO/AA.

When considering what she would like to do the summer after her 1L year, Rooker decided to reach out to Hayashi to see if there might be room in the OEO/AA over the summer for a law student to come work and gain experience.  Even though the OEO/AA had never had law students work with them before, Hayahsi knew about Rooker’s drive and passion and found a way to bring legal interns on for the summer.

In her role, Rooker works with the consultants in the office to investigate discrimination complaints. This involves going through documents and other evidence, sitting in on witness interviews, drafting statements, and much more. She assists with disability requests and ADA accommodations. She also does legal research into a variety of topics related to the work the OEO/AA does.

“As much as I loved some of my 1L classes, I can really see now just how valuable on-the-job, real-world legal training is,” she said. “I feel like the work I’m doing is preparing me for the work I want to do in the future.

Rooker views Title IX as vitally important to providing everyone at college or university with a fulfilling, positive experience by giving the assurance that there are resources available if they experience discrimination. She plans to continue to do gender equity work after she graduates.

Learn more about Madalin Rooker and her summer position with this Q&A.

Why did this position at the U of U Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX interest you?

I have always been passionate about gender equity and I have known that I wanted to do Title IX work since my freshman year of college.  I started my undergraduate degree at Weber State University where my time as a student athlete first introduced me to Title IX as it relates to gender equality in collegiate athletics.  At Weber, I also read “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer for one of my honors classes.  In the book, Krakauer documented a series of alleged sexual assaults at the University of Montana, focusing in large part on the victims’ stories and on how Title IX operates in the context of sexual misconduct.  My own personal experience as an athlete as well as the reading and studying I did about Title IX made me increasingly excited about and committed to the goal of doing Title IX work in the future.  After I finished my Associate’s Degree, I transferred to the University of Utah where I was fortunate to find opportunities through a few different student jobs and a position with the Women in Business organization at the Eccles School to do gender equity work and to even plan some Title IX events and information sessions.  I am passionate about a lot of different social problems and causes and I wanted to go to law school to find a way to address those issues and be a force for change in society, but my desire to eventually go into Title IX work was the main driver behind my decision to attend law school and become an attorney.  I was ultimately interested in this position because in addition to gender equity and other social issues, I am also really passionate about higher education and I think that Title IX (as well as the other laws and regulations that the OEO/AA uses to address various complaints of discrimination) is vitally important to providing everyone at a college or university with a fulfilling, positive experience while giving them the assurance that if they experience discriminatory behavior or circumstances that are detrimental to their success and wellbeing, there are resources and people there to help them. 

Why do you think you were selected for this position? What made you a good fit?

When I was the President of Women in Business, I coordinated two Title IX-related events with the OEO/AA and the Center for Student Wellness.  For one of those events, I worked directly with Sherrie Hayashi, the Director of the OEO/AA.  So, when I started thinking about what I might like to do the summer after my 1L year, I decided to reach out to Sherrie to see if she thought there might be room in her office over the summer for a law student to come work and gain some experience.  Even though the OEO/AA had never had law students work with them before, several of the people in the office spent a lot of time and energy (more than I’m probably aware of) to find a way to bring two interns on this summer.  So, the selection process was different than it usually is for other summer clerkships or jobs you might find through OCIs because I reached out to the OEO/AA myself.  I think what made me a good fit was primarily my passion for the type of work the office does and the fact that it is the type of work I want to do after I graduate and pass the Bar.

What type of work are you doing on a day-to-day basis?

The day-to-day work I am doing with the OEO/AA actually varies quite a bit depending on the week.  Some weeks, I spend most of my time working with the Consultants in the office to help with an investigation into a complaint of discrimination.  Usually that involves going through documents and other evidence that has been provided and determining what pieces of evidence are relevant to the analysis of the complaint.  It might also involve sitting in on witness interviews, drafting statements, and more.  I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the OEO/AA’s Deputy ADA Coordinator on some disability requests to learn how the ADA accommodation process works at the university.  When I’m not working on either of those things, I am doing legal research into a variety of topics that have been assigned to myself and the office’s other summer intern, looking to see what the Tenth Circuit has ruled on certain topics that are relevant to the work the OEO/AA does, what policies other schools in the Pac-12 or elsewhere have in place to address discrimination on their campuses, etc.

What has been the best part about working at the U of U Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX?

There have been so many wonderful things about working with OEO/AA.  First, the entire staff has been wonderful.  Not only have they all taken the time to offer support and advice, but they’ve also taken the time to teach and offer hands-on training and feedback to myself and the other summer intern even though they are all so busy.  The other great things about working with OEO/AA have been how much I have learned just in the few months I’ve been there (as much as I loved some of my 1L classes, I can really see now just how valuable on-the-job, “real-world” legal training is), and the fact that I feel like the work I’m doing is preparing me for the work I want to do in the future.

What is something you’ve learned while working there?

I’ve already learned so much working with the OEO/AA.  For example, I’ve learned about the ADA accommodation process, Title VII and how to analyze a discrimination complaint, how to go through evidence, even when there is a lot of it, to determine what is relevant to the case or complaint at hand, and also the differences between and overlap in criminal, civil, and administrative law.  I’m also learning how to be impartial during OEO investigations and how to balance the rights and needs of both parties during investigations.

What are your future career goals? How does this opportunity prepare you for your future?

My long-term goal is to do gender equity work after graduation and I would love to ultimately do Title IX work.  The opportunity to work with OEO/AA this summer is preparing me for my future not only by giving me valuable skills and knowledge I need to do this work in the future, but also by allowing me to really experience what it’s like to work in a Title IX office so that I can decide if that is actually what I want to do after I graduate from law school.

What is something you’ve done this summer besides working for the U of U Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX?

I’m spending a lot of time with family this summer.  One of my brothers just returned home from living away for most of the last three years so we’re enjoying spending time together as a family before he heads back off to go to college. I’m also playing a lot of pickleball with my law school friends.  Last September, a group of us started a weekly pickleball group and we’re still trying to play every week, despite how ridiculously hot it’s started to get.  I would also love to get out of town on vacation somewhere – maybe to escape the heat? – before school starts back up again in the Fall.