Political Science Graduate Earns Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship

Blake Eaton

Blake Eaton BS'16

UT Dallas alumnus Blake Eaton BA’16 recalls very clearly the moment he decided to pursue a legal career.  

“I was in the sixth grade, and it was the first time my mom let me watch 'Law and Order.' I remember thinking, ‘That’s where I want to be,’” Eaton said.

“I see the law as a system of rules, but with a human element. And there is a sort of poetry to it, crafting your words and finessing your argument for the person you’re helping,” Eaton said.

Eaton will move closer to his goal of becoming an attorney this fall at the University of Chicago Law School, thanks to a $15,000 fellowship from the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. Eaton is one of six graduate students in the U.S. to receive the Marcus L. Urann Fellowship, given to Phi Kappa Phi members entering the first year of graduate or professional study.  

It is the fifth year in a row — as long as UT Dallas has been a Phi Kappa Phi chapter member — that a student or alumnus from the University has received a fellowship from the honor society.

In 2013, Dina Shahrokhi won the Marcus L. Urann fellowship of $15,000; and $5,000 fellowships were given to Raheel Ata, a biochemistry graduate in 2015; Kayla Klein, a neuroscience and biology graduate in 2014; and Emily Lichtenheld, an economics and international political economy graduate, in 2012.

“I was blown away, and extremely thankful to people at UT Dallas like Dr. Douglas Dow and pre-law adviser Anne Dutia, who helped me put together the application. I was sort of thunderstruck that they would consider me for such an honor,” said Eaton, a National Merit Scholar and Collegium V student who graduated in May with a degree in political science.

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi awards 51 fellowships of $5,000 each and six at $15,000 each to members entering the first year of graduate or professional study.

The awards are extremely competitive. Each chapter can submit only one nominee each year. Nominees must be a member of Phi Kappa Phi and beginning a professional or graduate program in the fall.

Eaton said his experiences at UT Dallas helped shape his career niche. He changed course from the prosecution side of law to becoming a public defender when he screened cases for The Innocence Project.

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“There are a lot of people who need help and fall through the cracks. They need someone who’s dedicated to taking on their cases,” Eaton said. “Once someone is convicted, it’s very hard to help them. You need people right on the front lines to avoid those kind of injustices, someone who’s in their corner who makes sure the court is treating them right.”

Eaton also participated in moot court and mock trial in the pre-law program at UT Dallas. He discovered that he enjoyed the academic process of building an argument and interacting with judges who challenged his thinking.

Dr. Anthony Champagne, professor of political science and director of the Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center, said Eaton’s excellent academic skills will serve him well as an attorney.

“Blake has an incredible ability to read court cases, understand the significant points made in those cases, and then apply those points to a pending case. He can quickly analyze legal problems and offer a well-reasoned solution to those problems. Blake has one of the best analytical minds I have seen in 43 years of teaching,” Champagne said.

Dow, associate dean of the Honors College, said he knew Eaton was an outstanding student when he registered to take Dow’s human rights class, an upper level course, as a freshman.

“Blake is probably one of the most intellectually stupendous students I’ve had in my entire time here. Not only did he master the material, it was clear he was dipping from other scholarly reservoirs — history, politics, philosophy,” Dow said. “He’s definitely someone you’d like to have in your corner, and I think he will make a superb attorney.”

Eaton is spending the summer with family in San Diego and working with a law firm to represent indigent families in child custody cases. He’s grateful he chose UT Dallas for his undergraduate work because he found like-minded peers who are now studying at top law schools across the country.

“UT Dallas was a great place to be, one of the best choices I ever made. I found a pre-law community that shared my interests,” he said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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