Kline School of Law hosted the Fifth Annual Oxholm Colloquium on Public Service on October 29. The Colloquium, which was held virtually, explored how careers in public service require deep commitment and passion while providing purpose and fulfillment.
“Public service is doing something meaningful to positively benefit others, outside of ourselves, our friends, our family,” said keynote speaker Alba Martinez, a principal at Vanguard who is responsible for leading Global Talent Acquisition. “It is about going outside of ourselves; it is about crossing some sort of line into the other. [Public service] can be a way to achieve fulfillment, purpose, meaning and balance.”
Martinez, who has had a highly successful career in public service, attributed her passion for such work to her grandmother. “My grandmother was proud of the life that she lived. She was poor, but she shared so generously,” said Martinez. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Martinez saw her grandmother meet the needs of those around her in any way she could, even when she barely had enough resources for herself. Martinez said her grandmother was “the first and best public servant that I’ve met...and she never got paid a dime for it.”
While attending Georgetown University Law Center, Martinez worked at a law firm in Washington, D.C. and a public service firm in rural Florida. Comparing the experiences, Martinez said she felt a greater sense of purpose, freedom and significance while representing migrant workers and refugees in Florida. Ultimately, her decision to embark on a career in public service led Martinez to leadership positions at major agencies and institutions, including Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services and United Way of Southern Pennsylvania.
During the colloquium, the eponymous Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III, a former senior vice president and general counsel for Drexel University who endowed the Oxholm fellowship, also spoke of his winding career trajectory. Oxholm traced his rise from Deputy to Chief Deputy City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia in a few short years, stating, “I learned a heck of a lot, [and] I learned it by doing.” He said the difficult work was rewarding because he and his colleagues worked from the “shared conviction that what we did mattered to people who weren’t able to defend or protect themselves.”
3L Desjeneé Davis, the 13th recipient of Oxholm Summer Fellowship, also spoke about learning by doing, stating that her experience this past summer in the Code & Public Nuisance Litigation Unit (the Code Unit) at Philadelphia’s Office of the City Solicitor was “invaluable.” Davis said she became more comfortable working independently through the hands-on experiences she had in litigating and public speaking. For Davis, the community at the Code Unit was so positive that she’s continuing to intern there. “For me, the environment that I work in is just as important as the work that I do.”