New Professor Profile: Yvonne Tew

Professor Tew sits in her new office on the fourth floor of McDonough, only a few picture frames adorning the shelves. The window looks out over the library, inevitably catching some of the 1L students from her Constitutional Law course hustling over to cram in a few hours of work before Bar Review. Tew ponders the question posed to her for a few moments, carefully considering her inevitably eloquent words.

“It is your first year, it is going to be a lot of work so yeah, work hard. But also, just be open and be curious about this legal world that you are now exploring for the first time. Both in terms of the intellectual curiosity in the classroom, but also on a broader scale.” This curiosity, both in regards to the legal profession and also a greater understanding of social and cultural pursuits, is exactly what has allowed Tew to thrive thus far and has created a dynamic professor for Georgetown Law.

Global Legal Learning:

Professor Tew began her legal studies at University of Cambridge in 2004, where she received an undergraduate degree in Law. After winning a scholarship awarded to the top two final-year law graduates from the University of Cambridge admitted to Harvard Law, Tew continued her legal education in another Cambridge, this time in Massachusetts. Tew joined the L.L.M. program at Harvard Law in 2007, an environment that she thrived in.

“It was really exciting for me to be able to do all of these courses from a U.S. perspective. I did constitutional law, I did sex equality with Catharine MacKinnon, I also cross-registered with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government which was a fascinating interdisciplinary approach that I did less of during my Law degree at Cambridge.” Tew raved about the experience of being able to study a broad range of issues, something she noted partly fueled her interest in legal academia and law teaching.

Professor Tew followed a growing interest in comparative constitutional law back to University of Cambridge where she graduated with her Ph.D. in that subject as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. After her Ph.D., Tew decided to return to New York City after her Ph.D. to work as an Associate-in-Law and Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School. The current Georgetown professor had already worked as an attaché at the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations in New York and passed the New York Bar Exam in 2009, allowing herself to become familiar with the city. This two year program, professor Tew noted, was designed for young academics to hone their skills as teachers, researchers, and writers.

After two years at Columbia, Tew moved on to another program less than ten miles away with vastly different goals. “The Hauser Global Fellowship [at NYU Law] is a research fellowship, so you don’t have to teach. It was a one year fellowship designed with a global focus. The fellows were from all over the world, which was really fascinating.”

Professor Tew’s research is heavily focused on constitutional questions in a global sense, with work covering constitutional adjudication in Southeast Asia, forced marriage, as well as an upcoming paper titled Arbitrating God. Tew noted that her ability to switch seamlessly from writing about different political systems derives largely from her diverse educational background.

More to the point, however, it seems that Professor Tew’s insatiable curiosity drives the research that she has done. When discussing comparative constitutional law, the relatively reserved Tew can hardly hold back her passion for her work. The excited scholar gleefully described how she came upon the topic of her last paper, comparing originalism in the U.S. and other nations.

While focusing on her scholarship on constitutional rights protection in Southeast Asia, Tew was struck the use of originalist arguments by courts in the region. She noted a continuing trend and earmarked it as her next project.  “I engaged with it [scholarship on originalism] deeply, but I found myself trying to see what others had said about comparative originalism. I found that they had either said A, nothing, or B, when they did say anything about comparative originalism, they would essentially say ‘well that doesn’t happen anywhere else.’ I kept thinking, well that’s interesting, but that is not quite true so maybe I’ll write something about that.”

Professor Tew’s academic experiences seem to be defined by this type of sequence, where her curiosity drives her towards continued accomplishments.

Life beyond the Law:

The global interests and desire for knowledge that propel professor Tew through her academic career carry over into her life outside of the law. Tew excitedly discusses her favorite places to travel, wine regions that she has particularly enjoyed, and her love of trying and perfecting new types of food. “I can get a little bit intense with trying the best way to do something, but when I find it then I have the recipe! I like finding interesting and fun new places to taste and try different cuisines.”

Professor Tew’s work has brought her to conferences in Venice, Thailand, Australia, and the admittedly less exotic Victoria, Canada. She has journeyed to many places in South America, Europe and Asia, among others, out of her own interest. Greece may be a favorite, because it offers both intellectually stimulating sites and stunning beaches. Professor Tew also often visits Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, in part because of a love of the local food.

As with her varied interests within the legal field, professor Tew seems to be a master of her hobbies, ambitious to learn and experience as much as she can. A short 11 years after beginning her legal education as an undergraduate student at University of Cambridge, Professor Tew has accomplished a great deal. Her scholarship on comparative constitutional law is well-published and much respected. Her inner ambition, versatility, and pure curiosity have driven her to a high level of success, but this seems to be just the beginning.

You may catch Professor Tew teaching Constitutional Law to first year students, on the fourth floor of McDonough Hall intently researching a new interest or at a jazz concert. Be especially wary, however, if you are in a used records shop. As Tew said, “I like vinyls, so you may see me in a second hand vinyl shop flipping through the stacks.”

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