When Jacqueline Dowd attended GW from 1969 to 1973, protests against the Vietnam War swept the city, D.C.’s Metro system was still being built and there was little green space on campus.
Dowd now works as an attorney in Lake Eola, Fla., running the state’s first law firm for homeless clients, a nonprofit practice called Legal Advocacy at Work. Though she was a journalism major, Dowd said her time at GW helped launch her career in activism and advocacy.
“Back in those days, we used to talk a lot about the advocacy part of journalism and how do you be fair and objective and yet advocate a position,” she said. “That thought process was really interesting and was really helpful later on.”
While at GW, Dowd wrote for The Hatchet, covering everything from student government to the city’s Vietnam War protests.
“I was actually out covering them, being a reporter, which of course didn’t protect you from getting tear gassed,” she said.
A Florida native, Dowd said her interest in journalism dates back to her childhood, when she first began reading newspapers. She was drawn to GW for the chance to learn about journalism in D.C.
“You could walk to the White House and all that, walk to Congress,” she said. “We had some professors who were actively in the news those days.”
Learning how to gather information, research and think critically during college helped her in her current profession, she said.
“If you’re going to do courtroom work and you’re talking to juries, it’s about telling a story to an audience and, ‘How do I tell this story to this particular audience?’” she said. “And boy, that’s exactly the stuff I learned.”
After graduating, Dowd returned to Florida, where she said she worked at newspapers like the Orlando Sentinel for about five years. When she found that writing for newspapers wasn’t creative enough for her, Dowd began attending law school at the University of Florida. At that point, she was “not at all sure” that she wanted to be a lawyer, but found that she enjoyed “the intellectual challenge” of the subject.
Dowd would go on to work as a law professor and an assistant attorney general for the state of Florida. In 2006, she founded Legal Advocacy at Work and she now helps nearly 1,000 homeless clients.
Some of Dowd’s clients have needed her assistance in obtaining Social Security cards, birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Other clients include domestic violence survivors, senior citizens facing foreclosure or eviction and homeless clients struggling to pay court fines.
Though Dowd said she developed a passion for civil rights and economic justice before college, she said that her “experiences at GW solidified [her] resolve” to pursue it professionally.
“I was interested in people whose voices aren’t heard in the system, people who are marginalized for a variety of different reasons,” she said.