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Fred Rooney ’75, currently a Fulbright Scholar working to create access to justice in marginalized communities in the Dominican Republic, says his respect for justice, his concern for the underrepresented, and his love for international travel all began at Moravian College.
During his junior year studying Latin American Studies at Moravian College, Rooney spent two semesters studying in Bogota, Columbia, and he claims that his life changed dramatically during his time abroad. Growing up in an affluent neighborhood on Long Island, it was not until he traveled to Columbia that Rooney came face-to-face with the worldwide poverty and inequality which he would later spend his career helping to remedy. “I really had no idea what life was like in the rest of the world,” he says; the experience “broadened my horizons in a way that I never imagined possible.”
In addition to broadening his worldview, Rooney also developed and increased his knowledge of Spanish while at Moravian. “My language skills have been the source of my livelihood for all of my adult life and I attribute that to my years at Moravian. I am so grateful to have gone to Moravian because it provided me with the tools I needed to proceed with the rest of my professional life.”
After graduating from Moravian College, Rooney went on to earn his M.A. in Bicultural/Bilingual Studies from Marywood College, and then he earned his J.D. from the City University of New York’s School of Law in 1986. Since then he has dedicated his life to serving people who are shut out of the justice system.
As a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, Fred is spending the 2012-2013 academic year at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The Fulbright Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with the purpose of “fostering leadership, learning, and empathy between cultures,” according to its namesake, Senator J. William Fulbright. While in the Dominican Republic, Rooney is working on programs that will help to create access to justice in marginalized communities. One of his main projects is the implementation of clinics on the Dominican and Haitian border that will address issues of human rights and violations of civil rights.
Rooney says that his work in the Dominican Republic is really no different from what he has been doing all over the United States the past 14 years. “Because there is so much poverty here [in the Dominican Republic], there is little access to justice for people who don’t have the funds to pay a lawyer. But that’s identical to the situation in the United States: we really have become a country where it’s liberty and justice for all who can pay.”
Fred’s advice to students who want to make a difference, whether in their community or internationally, is to “leave the comfort of home, engage in a study abroad program, and get out and use your intelligence and your privilege to help people across the world.” He concludes by saying, “While individually we can’t change the world, my experience is that by helping to better the lives of individuals we meet along the way, our lives are enriched beyond measure and given deeper purpose.”
"I am so grateful to have gone to Moravian because it provided me with the tools I needed to proceed with the rest of my professional life."