I grew up near Sedalia, Missouri and graduated from Smithton High School. I knew after high school I wanted two things from college, to play baseball and pursue an education in the field of athletic training. These two interests are why William Woods appealed to me. However, it only took me half a semester to realize that Athletic Training was not in the cards for me after taking an Introduction to Biology course. I initially switched my major to Criminal Justice before I settled on Legal Studies due to the guidance of Professor Cynthia Kramer J.D. after I took her Politics & Government course. It was a winding road but I eventually found the degree program and supportive faculty that set a solid foundation for life after college.
Beyond my degree program, I was a member of the baseball team while at William Woods, and during my junior and senior year I was a part of the mock trial team, which would compete in competitions against schools of all sizes.
Winding paths to good destinations
The beginning of my professional career, much like my undergraduate education, has taken a winding path. Before figuring out the Legal Studies program is really where I wanted to be I had two other majors. A big factor in choosing the path of Legal Studies was the academic counsel of Professor Kramer who continuously encouraged me to be successful in the Legal Studies program and beyond. Professor Kramer added a level of rigor to the upper class courses in the Legal Studies program and gave exams in a way that simulated a law school course.
Upon graduation, I spent three years as a litigation paralegal and the hands-on approach of Professor Kramer and Professor Peggy Nickerson had a significant impact on my readiness to succeed in a job within my field after graduation. Within the first six months of my first job at a law firm I was promoted twice to lead a team of litigation paralegals. Compared to some of my colleagues, I was better prepared to not just do the business as usual tasks of a paralegal, but I was able to handle case law research and more quickly get involved in the higher profile litigation cases facing the firm.
Due to the legal market post-recession I chose to go to graduate school instead of law school. I found the passion that Professor Kramer instilled in me for the law was really a deeper passion for learning. When I first came to William Woods I had been mostly focused on baseball, but Professor Kramer really got me focused on life after college and prepared me to succeed in work and graduate school. William Woods really set the foundation I needed as a writer and research to be successful and expand even more on those skills in graduate school, which then taught me how to consume large amount of written material that would be assigned in addition to the extensive writing projects. This combined education is what has led me to my current path as a government affairs and public policy professional.
Growing in the professional world
Once I finally found my professional calling in the government affairs and public policy world my education and internship experience really set me up to succeed. I started working for a Fortune 1000 company and over the course of several years worked my way through various in-house government affairs positions lobbying for higher education policy to lead the entire U.S. government affairs team executing both a federal and state government affairs lobbying operation. This included high volume legislative work across 25 plus states, as well as Washington D.C. Ultimately my winding path at both William Woods and in my early career prepared me to be the kind of problem solver that could juggle and prioritize many tasks, as well as the tasks of others.
After nearly five years working for an in-house corporate entity I decided to open my own state government affairs consulting practice. My education at William Woods prepared me to do this not only through the Legal Studies program, but through a broader liberal arts education that has given me the ability to teach myself new tasks and issues. This foundation is important because of the problem solving skills needed to start your own business, and more importantly the ability of a contract lobbyist to learn about a new industry or policy issue quickly to help clients in a fast changing policy environment.
While Illinois legislature is in session my typical workday is fluid and given the nature of the consulting world that requires me to service multiple clients that are very different. When I worked as an in-house government affairs professional for a company there was a lot more routine, as well as travel. In Springfield my typical day consists of tracking committee hearings and floor debate, meeting with legislators, and tracking proposed legislation through the legislative process. I talk about the priorities of my clients and how policies may affect their organizations in a positive or negative way in an effort to influence the preferred outcome of each client. Session is from January through May and most days are busy, but William Woods helped prepare me for such a career.
Words of advice
Ultimately, students get what they want out of any education they pursue. Like most things in life, you will get more return on your investment in college if you show up and work hard. From my experience the same is true in the professional world as well, so it is critical to do in all aspects of life, whether in class or baseball practice. Students should also take all the practical experience they can get. Whether that is internships, volunteering, or studying abroad, get out there and do what you can to be involved in your field before graduating.