DI alums use learned skills in law

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DI alums use learned skills in law

Elianna Novitch, [email protected]

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Alumni of The Daily Iowan have gone on to pursue a variety of careers, all using skills they gained from their time at the newspaper.

DI alums Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier, John Osborn, and Cori Zarek have accomplished many things since their time at the DI, including building successful careers for themselves in law.

Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier

Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier worked as a sportswriter, production staffer, and sports editor during her time at the DI in the late-1970s to early 1980s.

The University of Iowa graduate said that during her time at the DI, she gained amazing real-world experience from meeting deadlines, managing her mostly male staff as a female sports editor, and learning to collaborate with others on the staff.

“The best times I spent in college were when I was working at the DI — I made friends for life there,” McNeil Staudenmaier said in an email.

She graduated with distinction from the UI in 1981 with a double major in journalism and broadcasting.

During her time working as a sportswriter for the Quad City Times, McNeil Staudenmaier realized her interest in law. She was inspired after meeting Alan Page, a former football star for the Minnesota Vikings who became a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“Alan really inspired me to pursue law school as a means of opening more doors for my career and not necessarily becoming a lawyer,” McNeil Staudenmaier said in an email. “However, once I got to law school and earned my first internship, I realized that I would enjoy the practice of law, as opposed to doing something else with my law degree in the journalism profession.”

She went on to graduate with distinction and as a member of the Moot Court and Trial Advocacy Boards in 1985 from the UI College of Law.

Now based in Phoenix, she works as the Partner Coordinator of Native American Law & Gaming Law Services for Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. She also serves on the Iowa College of Law Foundation Board of Directors. She is a frequent writer and speaker on federal Native American law and gaming issues.

Among her many accolades, McNeil Staudenmaier was named an “AZ Business 2016 Most Influential Women,” listed in “Best Lawyers in America” for both Native American Law and Gaming Law, and was named “Phoenix BEST LAWYERS Native American Lawyer of the Year” for 2014, 2015, and 2017.

McNeil Staudenmaier said she enjoys the variety of issues she takes on in her job.

“I enjoy the fact that, on a daily basis, I have so many interesting and challenging issues to handle,” she said. “That’s what I have found about practicing law in general — it keeps you interested and challenged no matter how long you practice.”

RELATED: DI alum Glenn Townes remains passionate about journalism

John Osborn

John Osborn worked as a DI staff writer from 1976 to 1979. During his three years at DI, he covered both the university and city.

“I was not a journalism major, and that was somewhat unusual,” he said. “I enjoyed the fact that it was just a whole different group of people that I got to meet and work with.”

Osborn graduated from the UI in 1979 with a double major in history and economics. Before going to law school, he worked on Capitol Hill in the offices of former Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., and the Congressional Budget Office.

“I kind of always had interest in both law and in public policy,” he said.

Osborn earned a law degree at the University of Virginia in 1983. Following law school, he clerked for Senior Circuit Judge Albert V. Bryan of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He also worked on the presidential campaigns of George H.W. Bush and served at the U.S. Department of State under Secretary James A. Baker III from 1989 to 1992.

In 2007, Osborn was nominated by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the Senate in 2008, to serve as a member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

He has also worked as a senior executive and general counsel with a variety of life-science and health-care companies, including Cephalon, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, and McKesson Specialty Health/US Oncology.

“That’s how The Daily Iowan related to what I ended up doing. It reinforced my interest in policy and thinking about issues in writing,” he said. “Even though I’ve been a corporate executive and a private lawyer, I’ve been determined to stay active in advocacy, and I’m sure a lot of that goes back to my time at the DI.”

Osborn now works as an industry adviser with the global private equity firm Warburg Pincus and as a senior adviser with the international law firm Hogan Lovells.

“A lot of my job is staying connected with people I know in industry,” Osborn said. “I enjoy helping them try to solve problems and advance their business, because they are involved in important work, they’re either trying to bring new medicines to market or improve the health-care system.”

RELATED: Daily Iowan alum Ann Williams bridges journalism and politics

Cori Zarek

Cori Zarek worked at the DI from 1997 to 2001, and during that time she held the positions of Metro reporter, Metro editor, managing editor, and after three years of leadership experience, became the editor-in-chief her senior year. She graduated from the UI in 2001 with a double major in journalism and political science.

“I love the news, and I love journalism and never thought that would be what my future career would be,” Zarek said. “I knew I wanted to study and practice law, but I never questioned whether it would be valuable to spend time working in a newsroom and working at The Daily Iowan.”

As it turned out, the experience was especially valuable; after she graduated from the UI College of Law in 2005, she went on to become a lawyer specializing in First Amendment law, open government, and technology policy.

“I became a First Amendment lawyer [because] I wanted to work with journalists, and promote freedom of the press, and advocate on behalf of reporters and the news media,” Zarek said.

The DI alum said she has long had an interest in law.

“Just at a young age, I was fascinated by the law. It seemed like it was the answer to a lot of questions I had as a kid,” she said. “As I grew into an adult and studied it more, I was really interested in the concept of the law being ever-changing and always an educational process.”

Throughout her career, Zarek has held a number of positions, including serving as the deputy U.S. chief technology officer at the Obama White House, as an attorney for the U.S. National Archives, and the Freedom of Information director at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Zarek now works with Mozilla, a tech company focused on keeping the Internet open and accessible to all.

“I’ve been lucky to be in positions where we can develop policies and programs that actually make change and advance the public good, whether that’s on openness and transparency on the open Internet or technology policy and thinking about our privacy online,” Zarek said.

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