St. Paul, MN
Program Type/Area of Study: J.D.
Years Served: 4
MOS: 1341, 8151
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a very proud veteran. I earned my nickname for Julius Caesar. I’m family-oriented, and I love to read books on things like astrophysics and astrobiology. I studied aeronautics as an undergraduate student, and I’ve also been to seminary for a theology degree. There are so many things I want to do! I have so many interests that it’s hard to pick just one or two. I’m considering work as an intellectual property or patent lawyer, but I’m also interested in the video game industry and in art law. I also would consider working as a JAG officer or as a U.S. attorney.
What prompted you to return to school?
After I got out of the marines and finished my undergraduate degrees in aeronautics and theology, I pursued work in aviation and as a corporate security manager. However I always felt as though something was missing and I did not feel fulfilled. My grandmother, Barbra, always told me I should be a lawyer throughout my life. Upon her death, I finally followed her advice and applied for law school. I am so happy I did as feel like I’m pursuing my calling here.
Why did you choose University of St. Thomas?
My brother went to St. Thomas as an undergraduate student, and my father got his M.B.A. here, so I knew it was a good school and that I shared its values. The Mentor Externship Program at the School of Law is also one of the best in the nation. This was a huge factor to me as my professional development and successful acclimation to the legal profession is just as important to me as learning the law. The law school’s emphasis on social justice is also important to me. Social justice issues have captured the attention of the nation, and I want to do my part in increasing confidence in the rule of law and making equal access to justice a standard reality.
What military education benefits, such as the GI Bill, did you use?
I haven’t used any yet, but I plan to use the post-9/11 GI Bill and the Marine Corps college fund.
What has your experience been like as a student?
I’ve had a positive experience; I’ve been blessed. Law school is much better than I expected. It is as hard as people say, but the sense of community at St. Thomas makes it better. The professors and staff are friendly and welcoming. I believe one reason why I am so happy with my decision to attend law school is that it gives me a way to continue the fight. Through law school, I am gaining the tools and access needed to keep fighting for the rights and freedoms of my fellow Americans. It truly feels great; I am a natural fighter for those who cannot fight for themselves.
What challenges did you have adjusting to campus culture after military life?
I had to change my terminology, such as replacing “following” for “tracking.” I also had to make an effort to come across as nicer after I came here. I just found smiling more helped. In the military, we trained to be strong and stoic. In order to connect in the civilian world, you have to soften up and relax a little. People really like my organizational skills, discipline and willingness to get the job done. Also, in law school you have to be a good speaker and somewhat of a good leader. I’m good at projecting my voice and sounding confident. I believe veterans are naturally confident.
Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?
Yes. The biggest thing I learned in the military was to build up a good support system. When you have people in your corner, more doors open up, and you can overcome challenges. Part of this support system at St. Thomas is the Military Law Student Association. I currently serve as the group’s secretary. Among the things we have done was to contribute our point of view to an event series hosted by the law school. The focus of the first series was on World War II and the law, and we talked about the public perception and reality of PTSD, as well as the experiences of combat veterans as they readjust to civilian life.
What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?
Don’t give up on your dreams or be afraid of failing (or succeeding)! People will be there and support you. You’re a vet; you can do anything. I slept in a hole in the ground for two days, so of course I can do this. Also, you can keep things in perspective. Finals are not nearly as stressful as being in a convoy and having someone shoot at you.
I find that my military background helps me keep a good work-life balance. I get to school at about 6:30 a.m. Classes start at 9, so I study in the morning. In class, professors often use the Socratic method, asking one individual questions for perhaps 15 minutes. When I read in the morning, the material is fresh in my mind. I do find it hard to sit still to complete the hours of required reading, but taking the time to do a few push-ups from time to time helps. I stay until 6 p.m., and when I leave, I have time for other things.