July 20, 2021
Alumni Spotlight: Chloe Hawker
By Bill Brink
One of the interesting things about lawyers, Chloe Hawker says, is how many of them moonlight as writers.
Hawker, who graduated Carnegie Mellon University in 2015 with a degree in International Relations and Politics, plans to do more than moonlight. She recently quit her job as a lawyer in Washington, DC so she and her mother can finish writing a novel.
“This sort of feels like a moment of opportunity for me,” said Hawker, who graduated Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 2019. “I want to have something out in the world that shows that I can do this kind of work because this is something that I would really love to pursue.”
Hawker, a native of Littleton, Colorado, set her sights eastward for college, looking for a school that allowed her to pursue multiple disciplines. Carnegie Mellon’s BXA Intercollegiate Degree Program caught her eye because she was considering singing in college as well. She applied to both the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Mellon College of Science because she was also interested in astronomy.
Hawker has a lot of interests. While at CMU, she helped fellow students decipher how their own interests translated into a job while working at the Career and Professional Development Center, first as a peer mentor and later as a student supervisor.
“That was a really great leadership experience for me,” she said. “I loved getting to mentor other students. I really loved the guiding through what can be a really confusing process, and I loved the people at the Career Center. We had a really, really wonderful group in there who really cared about students, and they were so much fun to work with.”
Hawker started as a Global Studies major, but soon joined the Institute for Politics and Strategy to major in International Relations and Politics. There, she took courses about the Supreme Court and Congress with Dr. Geoffrey McGovern, a fellow Harvard Law grad upon whom she relied for advice and guidance after graduation.
“He is phenomenal,” Hawker said. “It was interesting because it was very social-science-y, but it was very discussion-based, also very small classes. I was fascinated by the question of, to what extent do politics come into the Supreme Court.”
During the spring semester of her junior year, Hawker participated in the Carnegie Mellon Washington Semester Program and interned with the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. She served as a cultural ambassador of sorts, taking Iraqi Parliament members for Capitol tours and assisting with seminars that taught foreign officials about the American government.
This wasn’t her first time on the Hill. The previous summer, Hawker interned for both the House and the Senate with lawmakers from her home state, in Senator Michael Bennet’s office and the office of Representative Ed Perlmutter (she would intern in Congress again while in law school, on Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Judiciary Committee staff). The office of Bennet, a Senator in the majority and member of the Gang of Eight that worked on the immigration reform bill – a vote Hawker watched from the Senate gallery – and that of a minority House member are quite different; Perlmutter’s office was small enough that the interns alternated days.
“There was one point where I was doing a research project for them, and just to make it easier to understand what I was talking about, I put in some simple Excel graphs and everyone was so impressed,” she said. “This was not something that their interns were usually doing.
“I was not in math or hard science or any of those programs, and I still find that Carnegie Mellon alumni, myself included, regardless of what program they did, are much more data-minded,” Hawker said. “They’re much better equipped to ask questions about evidence and about what stories are based on, and what the evidence is for certain narratives.”
Hawker could see herself working on the Hill, and upon learning that most senior staff members in Congress had law degrees, she began to consider law school. Sitting in on some classes at the University of Virginia confirmed that law school aligned well with the way she thought about things, and once she got into Harvard, it was hard to say no.
“For me, the upside of a big program is that there were so many classes to choose from,” she said. “It really has a breadth of expertise that you can’t have at a really small school. I really loved the opportunity to meet so many people and also study so many different kinds of things.”
It will not surprise you to learn that Hawker has written since she was a kid. She finished a draft of her first novel when she was 15. Her mother, LS Hawker, is a published novelist. Chloe minored in Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon, taking classes in poetry and fiction and working with Professor Gerald Costanzo. At Harvard, she spent two years as a writer for Parody, a Harvard Law School Drama Society musical satire that the students put on each spring. The writers met every day during the January term, during which they had one class, at 5 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends. They often didn’t leave until after midnight.
“That was the first time that I experienced what it’s like to work really hard on something, and absurdly long hours on something, and really love it,” she said.
Hawker worked for the law firm Wiley Rein after graduation before adjusting to the circumstances of the pandemic. Too extroverted to stay in a one-bedroom DC apartment, she moved in with college friends and began saving money. With federal student loan interest paused and payments in forbearance, she saw an opportunity. She enrolled in online screenwriting classes, seeking the camaraderie and collaboration of her Parody writing days in a television writer’s room, and she and her mom now have time to finish the book, a rom-com, chick-lit type of novel.
“We really believe that it’s going to be saleable,” Hawker said. “We have an agent who has expressed potential interest in it. I need to get this done. I think it’s really important for me to do this. Now is probably the time.”