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Student Spotlight: Jennifer West (Class of 2014)

  • Jennifer West photosenior honors Pre-Law student with political science major
  • minors in history and business legal studies
  • from Mansfield, OH
  • President of Amicus Curiae student organization
  • member Miami Mock Trial team

As I went through Mock Trial and Amicus Curiae, my confidence in going to law school received a great boost. These experiences have helped me solidify in my mind that this is what I am supposed to do and what I want to do.closequote

Why Miami?

"I honestly hadn't heard of Miami until I was getting close to having to turn in my college applications. I got something in the mail and found out that Miami has a high acceptance rate to get into law school, which is where I want to go right after I graduate. I heard the College of Arts and Science is great and they have a great pre-law program.

"I'm in the Honors Program, so I've been taking a cluster of classes. This has been a great experience, because I had a few classes with the same people and built friendships that way. It was quite a different learning process compared to the high school I came from, which was comparatively small. I wasn't used to being around so many students and people here at Miami, so it was fun getting involved in stuff and learning in a new way.

Jennifer West and fellow students photo"I picked political science as my major during my freshman year. In high school I was choosing between history and political science because that's what I thought you had to do to go to law school—which I later learned wasn't right—but I'm glad I chose political science and was shocked to find how much I loved it!"

Best Experiences as a Miami Student

"There are so many things I like about Miami. I love that I can go anywhere and see a familiar face. I love that the faculty student interaction is so close. I love that there are so many opportunities to get involved. Even now, during my senior year, I'm learning about organizations that I kind of wish I would've done. There is so much to do here—it's a very involved campus.

"During my freshman and sophomore years, one of my biggest influences was probably my dorm's head of hall. She's since gone to Ohio State to do the same thing there, but she taught me so much about everything from diversity to how to learn, to getting along in school, to transitioning to college. She and the assistant head of hall both made my transition to Miami much easier.

"I also did Mock Trial during my first three years here at Miami. It was a very challenging experience that has helped me build a lot of relationships with faculty members and students. It's also improved my communication skills and critical thinking, which I was able to apply to my classes. Our team has traveled all over, including Orlando, Florida for regionals last year as well as New York City, Los Angeles, and around Ohio. And we've had judges tell us how well prepared we were, praising even our courtroom décor. We were even ahead of people who'd just come out of law school because they hadn't had the same level of practice!"

Best Class at Miami

"I've had a lot of great classes at Miami, including ones that were unrelated to my major, like a course about the history and context of jazz. It was really cool, because at the exact same time I was taking an American history course covering the 1940s and 50s, where we were discussing the politics in America during the Jazz Age.

"I had my very first political science class with Dr. Monica Schneider. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up taking her 300-level class my second semester freshman year—so I was in there with a bunch of juniors and seniors who were trying to finish up their majors. Dr. Schneider really pushed my writing and has been a great mentor on both my academic side and my getting involved with extracurricular activities."

Miami and Liberal Arts Education

"Because I'm in the Honors Program, I don't technically have to do the Miami Plan. Honors classes are already offered in a whole bunch of liberal arts areas, and it was helpful to pick from those and be able to narrow down my choices.

"I think that coming to Miami from a place where everyone seemed so single-minded, knowing only one thing, was kind of a shocker for me. I have gotten many different perspectives here from each of my professors. Not only have I been able to take political science classes but also American studies, sociology, psychology, anthropology—things I never expected I would be taking. Everything came at me from a different angle, so I've learned how to make use of all those different perspectives."

Mock Trial, Amicus Curiae, and the Pre-Law Program

Jennifer West and fellow students photo"I'd done Mock Trial during all four years of high school and then came to Miami telling myself I wasn't going to do it because I knew how much of a time commitment it was—but I went to the info meeting here and got sucked right back in! I am now actually the president of an organization called Amicus Curiae, which means 'friend of the court,' and it has expanded my way of thinking. I’ve been able to not only approach things from the pre-law sense but also to go outside of that and approach it from another angle. I enjoy speaking in front of people, which is something I wasn't big on in the past, but it's kind of what I have to do.

"Since freshman year, I was trying to do everything pre-law related because I want to go to law school. I was going to various Amicus Curiae meetings and building a lot of close relationships with the many students there who happened to be graduating the same year. So they really pushed me to run for president! I was very hesitant at first, because I have a tendency to take a lot on, but I'm glad I did. I've actually been president since the last year and a half. My time will be up in December 2013, but it's been great to see from an administrative standpoint how everything works. I oversee our services, our social programing, and our communications with alumni, faculty, and other staff on campus. It's a nice challenge figuring out how to prioritize this, how to organize that, how to make sure each of these tasks get completed.

"As I went through Mock Trial and Amicus Curiae, my confidence in going to law school received a great boost. These experiences have helped me solidify in my mind that this is what I am supposed to do and what I want to do. I've been so hands-on in all of this stuff, it's definitely made me excited for law school and I feel prepared! I am still scared, but I feel as prepared as I could be."

Advice to Students

"I'm definitely an extravert, so I'd recommend taking part in anything involving a lot of people. I participated very deeply in two organizations that I'm very passionate about, but I also tried a lot of other organizations. Try something unique, and do something you've never done before. Explore, because this is a good time to do it. If you take all these different classes in different areas—like American studies, political science, history—you can get a feel for what you might want to focus on more. All of them may not count toward your major in the end, but you might as well explore now and narrow down later. That's what I love."

[September 2013]


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