Mindy Nunez Duffourc hails from New Orleans (USA). She studied Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked as a lawyer in Chicago and New Orleans. Here in Passau, she is a member of Professor Jörg Fedtke's team at the Chair of Common Law, where she is working from 1 October 2016 to 30 September 2017. Her research project compares how medical negligence is treated in the United States and in Germany. Mindy Nunez Duffourc has been awarded a one-year German Chancellor Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in the course of which she will also meet German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Why did you choose to work at the University of Passau?
I chose to work in Passau for its strong reputation in the law. Also, I was fortunate to have as my host Professor Fedtke, a highly respected scholar of comparative law, who teaches at both the University of Passau and at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Having lived and worked in Passau for some time now: do you feel your expectations about the city and the University have been met?
So far it's been a wonderful experience for me. Professor Fedtke and his team are very supportive, and even some of the other professors introduced themselves and offered their help. Also, I am very impressed with the library and how easy it is to find everything.
Which challenges have you faced so far?
I don’t like to make sweeping statements about an entire nation, but I have experienced Germans as being very direct and to-the-point. When I ask a question, I get an immediate and exact reply – almost like in court. I guess Germans just don’t like doing small talk – and while that has its advantages, it can also be really frustrating at times.
Your fellowship bears the name of Alexander von Humboldt, a natural scientist, explorer, polymath, cosmopolitan, scholar and patron of the arts. Would you regard Humboldt as your role model?
Of course. Alexander von Humboldt was an explorer and always searching for new ideas. And that's what I am trying to do with my research, too. I want to expand the way we prevent and resolve claims of medical negligence by gaining a new perspective in Germany.
What does the Humboldt scholarship mean to you?
For one thing, the fellowship provides me with an opportunity to have a forward-looking view in the legal field. As a practitioner, who has to manage cases, my work is mostly focused on the analysis of specific past events. For another thing, the fellowship brings with it a large network. The German Chancellor Fellowship sponsors young leaders from five countries, which creates an instant worldwide network. The first stage of the programme, in Berlin, brought us all closer together; I think of them as my new international family.
What are your plans for the future after the end of the fellowship?
I also wish to return to my home country. I plan on continuing my work as a lawyer in New Orleans and hope to become an expert in my field. Also, the Humboldt Foundation continues to support the fellows after the fellowship period, and I hope to return to Germany for shorter stays to further my research.
(Interview by: Susann Eberlein, Campus Magazin 01/2017; Translation: Andrew Rink)