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Dustin S. Blankenship is a third year law student at West Virginia University College of Law and anticipates a May 2014 graduation. He will also earn his Masters in Public Administration from West Virginia University in 2015. Although Dustin has several areas of interest, he plans on practicing litigation and immigration law while serving as a staff member for a non-profit organization.
Dustin was born in Logan, WV, and raised in Gilbert, WV. He grew up with his mother, father, and his brother. Dustin explained, "My parents are from a small town in West Virginia. I have one older brother. My dad was a coal miner for 33 years and my mom wrote gospel music and took care of the family."
He earned his B.A. Magna Cum Laude in History from Concord University in May 2011, where he was the recipient of the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation Fellow. While studying at Concord University, Dustin was a member of the Blue Key Honor Society, Vice President of Student Government Association, and President of Phi Sigma Phi. He served a legal clerkship at Sammons Law Offices, PLLC, during undergrad and in law school. Dustin also was a member of PAD at both the undergraduate and law school level. He currently serves as National Vice President of the Phi Sigma Phi National Fraternity.
At West Virginia University College of Law, Dustin received the Culture of Excellence Exemplary Student Award in 2013. He was a member of the Republican Law Caucus, Phi Alpha Delta, and he served as Fundraising Director for the Student Bar Association (2013). Dustin assisted the United Nations Conference on Business and Human Rights at WVU, which will publish an edited volume through Cambridge University Press in 2014. Since 2013, he has served the WVU Immigration Law Clinic. Dustin is currently researching H2B Worker Visas and their business and human rights impacts for possible publication in the future.
When asked if he participated in any internship programs, Dustin claimed:
"I worked for Sammons Law Offices, PLLC, as a legal clerk/intern during undergrad and again in law school. It was a wonderful experience. The firm focuses on surface mining permitting and appellate advocacy for surface mining operations. I assisted with a multi-million dollar case. I learned to deal with difficult clients and how to produce good and persuasive product in a very short period of time."
What are his hobbies and personal interest? "I write and sing. I traveled for many years with my family in a Southern gospel music band. I love to work out. I am also a huge fan of movies. I have a collection of around 1000 DVDs. Some of my friends call me 'Blockbuster.'" Dustin also loves to cook. He enjoys dipping rice and steak in his "world class mango salsa". He is currently reading Charles R. DiSalvo's M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law.
Dustin's Academic Law Career and Future Aspirations
Why did Dustin go into the law? "When I was a young child, I saw the movie 'Liar, Liar' starring Jim Carey. I told my mother that I wanted to be a lawyer. As I grew older, things fell into place, and here I am."
What areas of the law does he hope to practice? "I have thoroughly enjoyed working in immigration. I would like to work in this area, at least as a part of my job. Further, I really love litigation. I hope to be able to litigate in my career."
Dustin shared his aims and aspirations. "I love doing legal work and I love helping people. It is the whole reason I'm trying to do my Master's in Public Administration on top of my law degree. Eventually, or even sooner rather than later, I would like to take on a primary leader role with a nonprofit. That's where my heart really lies."
What are his key accomplishments? "Scholastically, being named Exemplary Student at WVU College of Law. Professionally, being named National Vice President of my fraternity. Personally, organizing the first ever Shriners 5K in Fairmont, WV."
Dustin discussed his key strengths and skills that he would like to use to advance his career goals. "My personality and dedication create a strong foundation for my advancement in a legal career."
As for his weakness, he stated, "One of my strengths is also a weakness; my dedication makes me emotionally attached to clients and situations. This can be good, but it also takes its toll."
Since law school can be hectic at times, Dustin pointed out how he relieves stress. "I like to sing and work out at the gym."
Many readers are probably wondering how he handles new assignments. The third year law student shared his process: "I try to dive in and learn as much as possible about something before I begin working on it. Then, once I become a 'mini-expert,' I tackle it."
Where does Dustin derive his confidence? "I was born with it, I believe in myself."
Three Wishes to Live By, Coping with Fear, Staying Healthy and Volunteer Experience
If Dustin had three wishes, what would he wish for? "I would wish for health for my family, happiness for a lifetime, and a lot of money, or at least enough to pay off my law school student debt."
How does he deal with fear? "Fear is an important and natural part of life. It is something that must be embraced in order to succeed."
Has Dustin faced any obstacles in his life? He asserted:
"I have faced a number of obstacles in my life, the biggest being dealing with numerous health problems. I have problems with my heart and back, as well as asthma. It has been a challenge. Beyond that, neither of my parents went to college and none of my grandparents graduated from high school. College, especially law school, is not something that my family is used to. Because of this, I have had to make new connections and work hard to go out on my own and be my own man. It hasn't been easy, but it has certainly been worth it."
When asked about his volunteer experience, he noted:
"Since 2005, I have served at West Virginia Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation (WVHOBY). I am currently a Corporate Board Member and the Director of Recruitment. I am the Sarah Guisdalla Award Winner (Most Community Service, won in both 2007 and 2008). My past positions include Director of Facilities and Transportation and Alumni Association Treasurer.
Since 2011, I have served at Iaeger Lodge #148 A.F.A.M.; 32d Degree Scottish Rite Mason in the Valleys of Logan and Charleston; and I am a Potentate's Aide at Osiris Shrine Center, Wheeling, WV.
Since 2011, I have served Concord University's Alumni Association Executive Council and I serve on the Homecoming and Bylaws Committee Chair. I also do a lot of volunteering at the grassroots level for many different organizations as needed."
Legal Role Models, Personal Philosophy, People You Want to Surround Yourself With and Dustin's Top Priority
Does Dustin have any legal role models? "At the personal level, Stephen P. New, Pam Lambert, Terry Sammons, and Timothy Koontz all impacted me. On a professional level, I really admire Chief Justice Roberts. He is very independent of his party and his party line."
What is his personal philosophy? "Enthusiasm is the key to life. Even when things are tough, someone is having it tougher. Smiling through adversity will make things easier for you and could make someone else's day better in the process."
The future attorney talked about what he believes holds more truth in light of his personal philosophy. Was it fate or choice? "Choice. I believe fate brings opportunities to your door, but you still have to choose to take them. My mom always used to say, 'Peter would have never walked on water if he hadn't stepped out of the boat.'"
What kind of situations and people is Dustin attracted to? What kind of situations and people does the law student avoid? "I tend to attract people who want to be successful. I like people who like to have fun while still making a difference, be it in work or service. I think it is important to have a good group of people around you. I flourish in a large group setting, but appreciate the time I have to reflect on my own as well." As for situations and people to avoid, he said, "I avoid loud and aggressive people. Although conflict is a part of life, unnecessary conflict is something I always try to avoid. There's no point in adding more stress to my life than I already have."
What is his top priority outside of school and work? Dustin acknowledged:
"I am a Potentate's Aide at Osiris Shrine Center in Wheeling, WV. I love fundraising and working to help our patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is one of my great passions. I am also Director of Recruitment for the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation Seminar in West Virginia and National Vice President for Phi Sigma Phi National Fraternity, Inc. I like to fill my time with things that mean a great deal to me."
Most Influential Traveling Experience, Favorite Quote and Final Thoughts
Dustin discussed his most influential traveling experience. He stated:
"I've traveled to several states around the U.S. My first experience traveling out of the country was to Mexico in 2012 for the Comparative Law study abroad through WVU in partnership with the Universidad de Guanajuato. It was a life-changing experience. My professor gave us all superlatives, mine was the 'Hit the Ground Running Award' because I adapted to Mexico more quickly than some of the seasoned travelers."
His favorite quote is by Michael Palin: "I am not a great cook. I am not a great artist. But I love art and I love food, so I am the perfect traveler."
Are there any particular achievements or activities that you have been involved in and which you would like to share with our readers? "I have been extremely honored to be named a National Vice President for Phi Sigma Phi National Fraternity. The Exemplary Student Award was also a great honor. However, my most rewarding activity is working with Shriners Hospitals for Children. Seeing the impact that our hospitals have on the lives of children and their family changed my life."
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