Exploring Europe: 3 Questions With Marshall Memorial Fellow Dean Fealk

Feb 04, 2013

Dean Fealk, 2011 Marshall Memorial Fellow

When I first met Dean Fealk, a Partner at DLA Piper, one of the largest business law firms in the world, I could tell he loves traveling and doing work that has a positive social impact. Early in his career, after completing a Master’s at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Dean taught and studied on a Fulbright to the Republic of Korea where he was the first American to clerk at the Constitutional Court of Korea. In 2011, the same year Dean was named one of 40 Under 40” by The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal and one of the twenty leading lawyers in California under the age of 40 by the Daily Journal, he was also chosen for The German Marshall Fund’s (GMF) Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF). The fellowship provides emerging leaders from the United States and Europe the opportunity to explore each other’s politics, business, innovation, and culture through an experiential learning program. American and European Fellows each visit five cities during a 24-day itinerary of meetings. Since his MMF experience, he was named a US-Spain Council Young Leader and joined a delegation of 10 young American leaders who traveled to Europe to promote the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Spain. Excited to learn more about the Marshall Memorial Fellowship,I sat down with Dean to ask him about his fellowship experience and tips for the application process.

1. What is unique about the Marshall Memorial Fellowship experience? 

The MMF gives emerging leaders from the private sector, government, NGOs and academia the opportunity to travel Europe, meet with thought leaders across the continent and explore issues of importance to the transatlantic relationship.  It is a unique chance to step away from the daily routine for a month, self-reflect and open yourself to new ideas and viewpoints.  The experience is not intended to be a one-way channel for information but rather an authentic and dynamic exchange of perspectives.  Fellows act as private diplomats, representing the US and their home states as they make their way across the great cities of Europe.

Perhaps the most meaningful products of the MMF are the close friendships forged as fellows make their pilgrimage across Europe, through the Baltics, through ancient and contemporary history, often in a bleary-eyed sleep-deprived state.  The schedules are jam-packed with official meetings, events and programming so there is literally no “down time.”  The trial-by-fire is a shared experience not soon forgotten.  And on an ongoing basis once the fellowship is over, the GMF works to preserve the trans-Atlantic relationships through its lifelong learning and extensive alumni network.

2. What do you think made your nomination and application stand out?

I think in my case I was able to demonstrate a proven track-record working to strengthen and support think tanks and non-profit organizations.  Civic engagement is valuable to the GMF, which looks for fellows who will continue to work towards its mission and help strengthen the organization and MMF after the fellowship has ended. Generally, the GMF also looks for candidates who have excelled not only in their chosen professional fields but who also are civic minded and thoughtful about the issues of the day.

In addition to the nomination and written application there is a fairly rigorous panel interview where candidates are posed questions on a variety of subjects ranging from geo-politics to economics and the arts.  You don’t need to be an expert on any of these topics, but it helps if you are relaxed, thoughtful and can let your values and passions come through.

Being passionate and knowledgeable about your home city are also competitive advantages.  American fellows are asked to host incoming European fellows that tour the US on an annual basis, so it makes an impression in the interview if a candidate is actively engaged in the social fabric of his or her community.

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Marshall Memorial Fellowship?

Freshly reflect on where you are in your career, the path you have taken and where you see yourself in five or ten years.  Also consider your personal leadership narrative.  It might sound cliché to think about a short “elevator pitch,” but the exercise really forces you to take an objective look at your skill-set, experiences and ambitions so that you can articulate them in an organized and compelling fashion.  That said, just be yourself!  The GMF looks for leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds that are representative of society.  Be your authentic self and just tell your story.  And when you make the trip, go with an open heart and mind.   You almost certainly will not return the same person.

Dean Fealk heads the Global Equity practice at DLA Piper, advising leading multinational companies on a wide range of legal and strategic issues related to doing business overseas. He is also a Truman National Security Fellow and general counsel to the Halifax International Security Forum. Dean is a graduate of the 2009-10 class of Leadership San Francisco and the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School. Dean earned his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.