Spotlight on Chelsea Zimmerman: Participant in the 1st Annual Clara Barton Competition

Chelsea Zimmerman interviews simulation prisoner of war

Chelsea Zimmerman interviews simulation prisoner of war

“It took a long time to find my passion, but now I have found it.”

Chelsea Zimmerman, 27, a third year law student at American University, beams as she speaks about her first day’s experience at the 1st Annual Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition. Named after the founder of the American Red Cross, the event is a simulation-based moot court competition for students interested in international humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the “law of war.”

“It’s fascinating to me because IHL gives a human element to war; it creates rule in a world of chaos,” Zimmerman says.

It’s her second such competition in just a few weeks’ time. She just returned from Portugal where she and two other team mates participated in the Jean-Pictet IHL Competition, a learning experience hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Clara Barton Competition is in fact modeled after Jean-Pictet, engaging participants in a variety of practical role playing exercises, during which they are asked to assume various professional roles and accomplish a various field assignments.

For Zimmerman, it’s a very rewarding experience. A chance seating next to American Red Cross IHL Director Christie Edwards led to a conversation that triggered Zimmerman’s interest in IHL. And after hearing Clara Barton and the Red Cross mentioned in by a Jean-Pictet alumni in reference to IHL, Zimmerman felt she had discovered “an interest she never knew she had.”

Unlike traditional moot court competitions, each round of the Clara Barton Competition presents a new hypothetical case study, offering participants a unique, dynamic and creative atmosphere to explore complex legal issues. Open to current law students pursuing their Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Master of Law (LL.M.) degrees at U.S. law schools, as well as students attending U.S. military academies, the competition tests participant’s knowledge of international humanitarian law and international public law, as well as challenging their ability to present, advocate and defend legal positions with a diverse range of stakeholders in different simulated environments.

“It’s intense,” Zimmerman says. “A lot of the questions throw you off and are meant to see how you handle thinking on your feet.”

While her team ultimately did not take top prize at the Clara Barton Competition, Zimmerman still feels like a winner. “This is exactly what I want to do.”

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