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Student Spotlight with Alexandra Helfgott

Posted by: wichmannkm | October 24, 2017 | No Comment |

Junior political science and Spanish double major Alexandra Helfgott is a member of the Honors College and was recently elected President of the Student Government Association (SGA). Our department had the fortunate opportunity to interview Alexandra about her college experiences.

What has your Involvement in student government been like?

I started in student government when I was a freshman. I served as Freshman Senator and then I had the privilege of serving as the Chief of Staff for President Michael Faikes last year. It was a formative experience being able to see behind the scenes of the SGA and to learn more about the executive branch. I had the opportunity to run for President this year, and I’m very appreciative and grateful to have won. To be able to empower and encourage other members of SGA to succeed and complete initiatives they are working on is probably the most meaningful aspect of the role. It has been such a gratifying experience and I’m so appreciative to give back to the College because I have gotten so much from this school. To be able to give back like others have done for me has been the most meaningful part of it.

What types of initiatives is SGA currently working on?

I’ve focused on a few key initiatives.  When I was a freshman, SGA President Zach Sturman started a policy having to do with grade redemption. The proposal was to allow students the option of redeeming a class if they earned a C- or below. Faikes worked on the issue during his term as President, and he passed the baton to me this year. We are thrilled that it just passed through the Faculty Senate and it is scheduled to be implemented in 2019, but this is contingent upon the Registrar’s Office and Information Technology designing the business process to implement the new policy. Second, the College’s Physical Plant just approved our pilot project to provide dispensers for free feminine hygiene products on campus. We are hoping to demonstrate that there is a demand for these products. Third, one of our directors is working on an initiative called “Ban the Bottle” which would ban the sale of single use plastic water bottles on campus. We are still researching this project and trying to gauge student support. Schools that have implemented this policy have received positive national recognition and if it is implemented at the College, we would be the first school in South Carolina to do so. This initiative goes nicely with the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for sustainability literacy and it’s something that is gaining a lot of traction.

How did you decide to major in political science?

I came in completely undecided and not knowing what I wanted to do. I went to the Majors Fair my freshman year and I met Dr. Knotts. It was that moment that I said I should probably consider political science which I had never imagined picking when I was in high school. The experiences that I have had in the Political Science and Spanish Departments, and the Honors College have been formative. It’s been a great opportunity to learn and grow. It’s okay to make mistakes because it is a learning environment. The support and mentorship I receive has been absolutely incredible. It’s been exciting to watch myself discover where my passions are within political science because I had no idea that this was something I was interested in until I came to college.

Every professor that I have had in the Political Science Department truly has been stellar. Everyone is willing to help and so passionate – Dr. Knotts, Dr. Creed, Dr. Wofford. I cannot say enough about this department.

Can you tell us more about your interest in becoming a lawyer?

This past March I went to a conference at Harvard University on public policy and leadership that really opened my eyes.   I am thinking about pursuing a joint master’s degree in public policy and juris doctorate with a focus on employee and labor rights. I am interested in helping undocumented immigrants who face discrimination and abuse by their employers as a result of their undocumented status. My interest in this actually goes back to Dr. Creed’s honors world politics class I took as a freshman. We read a book called The Devil’s Highway which was about Mexican immigrants crossing the border illegally and that really sparked my thinking about it. Everything that we learn in the classroom comes full circle.

What is your involvement in the Honors College?

I was a member of the inaugural Honors College Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community which was a really great experience. Though I’m not pursuing the field of entrepreneurship, I learned some great tactics like networking, being able to make an elevator pitch, and becoming a more well-rounded individual. I am a Swanson Scholar and William Aiken Fellow so I received additional mentoring and guidance through that program. I serve as an Honors Engaged Liaison for Trident Literacy Association and St. Matthews English as a Second Language which pairs CofC students in the Honors College with these organizations and they go and volunteer weekly. I currently serve as a Student Representative on the Honors Advisory Board.

What inspires you to be so active and engaged on campus?

I was involved in high school and I think it just trickled over to college.  I am so appreciative of everything that I have received from my professors at the College – all the guidance and wisdom, so if I can give back in any way that’s what drives me. There are opportunities to make tangible impacts. There are resources and networks available to college students and I think that’s so powerful and it drives me to make the student experience better. I want students to feel how I do about the College. I absolutely love it.

What advice do you have for current students?

I would say if an opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it. If you feel that you’re not qualified or maybe need more experience, just go ahead and apply. If you see someone and think “I should go introduce myself to them,” you should just go ahead and do it. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. It’s not going to be comfortable but at the end of the day you will be glad you did it. I don’t think anyone wants to have regrets about what could have been. Go see your professors, take that class that you are scared about because it’s only a couple of years. Before you know it, we will be out of here.

under: Faculty, Scholarships and Awards, Student

Alumni Spotlight with Second Lieutenant Logan Fitchett

Posted by: wichmannkm | October 19, 2017 | No Comment |

Second Lieutenant Logan Fitchett graduated from the College of Charleston as a political science major in 2015. Originally from Newport News, Virginia, Fitchett just completed her first year of service with the United States Marine Corps. The Political Science Department had the fortunate opportunity to learn more about her career.

Can you talk about your decision to join the Marine Corps?

After I graduated from College of Charleston in 2015, I moved back home and was applying to jobs. My mom suggested I look into the military which was not anything I had really considered. However, when I met with the Marine recruiter and started the application process, I could not believe I had not thought of this option sooner. As I became more exposed to what Marines do, I learned that the lifestyle really worked for me. The challenge and physical demands of the Corps, along with the great individuals that join, made me realize I really wanted to be a part of it.

What training have you received in the Marine Corps?

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a ten week boot camp for officers which consists of physical and mental screenings. After finishing as a Second Lieutenant at OCS, I spent six months in Quantico at The Basic School to learn how to become a basic rifle platoon commander. In the Marine Corps, you acquire a military occupational specialty but you also need to be able to pick up a rifle in combat. At The Basic School, I received training in the use of weapons, tactics, and leadership. At the end of this training, I compiled a list of my preferred military occupational specialties. I was assigned as a combat engineer, and I am currently at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for this training. I am learning about wood framing construction, urban breaching, constructing obstacles and survivability positions. After this training, I will be stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.

What has been most challenging and rewarding about joining the Marine Corps?

The most challenging aspect of being a Marine is that it continuously forces me to be out of my comfort zone. You have to do things you are not comfortable with but then you start to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. For instance, during OCS, you may get up early to go for a hike but then be thrown into an activity where you are leading your peers through the woods on a mission.  It’s made me a stronger person and I am grateful for that. During my time in the Marine Corps, I have enhanced my leadership and problem solving skills along with my ability to adapt and make decisions under pressure. The most rewarding part of this experience so far has been the Marines I have had the opportunity to work with. I am surrounded by great people including my peers and higher-ranking Marines who inspire me to give 100 percent each day.

How has your college education prepared you for your career as a Marine?

Traditionally the College of Charleston does not seem like a school where graduates would go on to the military, but it was a great stepping stone to get here. It’s such a special place with so many opportunities for unique experiences. I especially benefited when my professors incorporated the City of Charleston into learning. I brought a well-rounded perspective to my career. My liberal arts courses have given me a lot of information on different topics. For example, my knowledge of sociology was helpful because as a Marine you work with people all the time. Most people who study political science have an interest in what is going on around the world and current events. Having a global understanding is also critical in the military.


under: Alumni

Political science is a versatile degree and it is important for majors to be open to the many and various career opportunities available. This theme emerged during the Political Science Department’s Career Café Series Kickoff Luncheon on September 15, 2017.  Once again, departmental alumni spoke with currents students, sharing how they navigated their careers after graduating with a political science major from the College of Charleston.

Alumni panelists for the September Career Café were Emily Gooding (’13), Product Coordinator at BiblioLabs, LLC; Dustin Haynes (’12), Employer and Public Relations Office at Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union; and Sam Spence (’08), Web Editor at Charleston City Paper. In addition, College of Charleston Career Counselor, Emma Waugh, shared the myriad of services offered by the Career Center (for more information on these services, please visit careercenter.cofc.edu).

Panelists also talked about how they were drawn to their current positions because of their ability to stay involved in the community. They also emphasized the importance of networking and lifelong learning. Students also had an opportunity to ask questions.

Gibbs Knotts, Political Science Department Chair, stressed the department’s commitment to helping students prepare for life after College.  According to Knotts, “The political science department has been producing high quality graduates since the 1970s and it makes perfect sense to connect our currents students with our distinguished alumni.”

The focus for the next Career Café Series Luncheon in November will be on job opportunities in the public sector.  Political science alumni will discuss why they decided to pursue careers in the public sector and how the political science major has prepared them for their positions. Additional luncheons will take place in Spring 2018.

under: Alumni, Events, Faculty, Student

As Texas recovers from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Matthew Nowlin, assistant professor of political science, is working with colleagues to bring together members of the public, natural resource managers, and other decision makers to discuss issues important to South Carolina’s coastal community. Our Coastal Future Forum will focus on environmental health pollution and contaminants of water ways, offshore energy production, coastal biodiversity, climate change and rising sea levels. According to Dr. Nowlin, “The purpose of the forum is to gain insight into how people on the coast think about these issues, how to better communicate about these problems, and how we can move forward in making decisions about these complex issues.”

Our Coastal Future Forum is possible because of a two-year grant that Dr. Nowlin, Dr. Susan Lovelace from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, and University of Oklahoma Assistant Professor Dr. Justin Reedy received from the National Academies of Sciences Gulf Research Program.  “The overarching question of the project is to determine if a deliberative forum is an effective way of decision making,” noted Nowlin. “For instance, how do we engage all stakeholders to address complex problems like climate change which is greatly politicized and how do we break through the political gridlock that exists?”

Collaboration has been key to success in the project thus far. Dr. Nowlin credits the diverse array of environmental experts that Dr. Lovelace has assembled. Dr. Kendra Stewart and Dr. Bob Kahle at the Joseph P. Riley Center for Livable Communities have also assisted in surveying South Carolina’s eight coastal counties to help recruit for the event. They have also fielded a statewide survey and are currently preparing a national survey addressing coastal issues. One of the main challenges Dr. Nowlin’s team faces is recruiting a significant number of public participants willing to spend a day and a half to participate in the forum but it is a challenge that they are embracing.

Dr. Nowlin joined the Department of Political Science in August of 2013. He currently teaches an undergraduate environmental policy course, a graduate level public policy course, and a sustainable resource management course for the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan. He has also taught courses in research methods, American government, the political science capstone, and first year experience.

Dr. Nowlin earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma in May 2013. He also holds a B.A. in Psychology and a M.A. in Political Science from the University of Central Oklahoma. His research is focused on the policymaking process and linkages between public policy and public opinion. In addition, his research addresses substantive questions in climate change and used nuclear fuel politics and policy. His work has appeared in Policy Studies Journal, Risk Analysis, Social Science Quarterly, and Weather, Climate, and Society. He is currently writing a book that focuses on ways in which the United States can address climate change given how environmental policies and politics have evolved.

under: Events, Faculty, Scholarships and Awards

First Jordan Rively Scholarship Awarded

Posted by: wichmannkm | August 31, 2017 | No Comment |

Junior political science major Gabrielle Williams is the first recipient of the Jordan Rively Scholarship. The scholarship was recently created by political science alum, Joseph Rively ’89.  He established the scholarship in memory of his grandparents, who funded his College of Charleston education. Mr. Rively is the Director of International Development at University of Pennsylvania and resides in Philadelphia.

Williams expressed considerable appreciation after being notified of the award. “Getting this scholarship allows me to focus on my schoolwork and extracurricular activities instead of having to focus on affording my tuition,” noted the aspiring criminal law attorney. “It will help me relax and spend time enjoying this whole experience,” Williams added.

The annual scholarship is intended for students pursuing their B.A. at the College of Charleston in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and provides $2,500 support. Preference is given to Political Science majors.

under: Alumni, Scholarships and Awards, Student

Sapa, Vietnam stands at an elevation of 4,921 feet, and has been fondly coined by visitors as “the city in the clouds.” With just one week left of our summer study abroad experience, we sat on the side of a mountain, overlooking the lush green rice paddies that dress the Valley and snacking on some $0.75 pho ga. It was the perfect moment for us to reflect on the six cities that we had already traveled to, and all of the growth that our time in Cambodia and Vietnam had already afforded us.

The CofC Summer Program in Cambodia and Vietnam, co-run by Dr. Jen Wright and Dr. Christopher Day, offers six credits in psychology, political science, or environmental studies. The program utilizes an interdisciplinary academic approach, combining class discussions that cover post-conflict governments, international intervention, and humanitarian aid, with an individual research project that is entirely of the student’s own creation. Cambodia is a country with a corrupt government recovering from a genocide in the 1980s.  Conversely, Vietnam is a rising regional power experiencing rapid economic growth, offer excellent opportunities for personal and academic growth.

As the trip comes to a close, we thought we’d reflect upon our experiences so that we could share them with you:

What was your favorite part of the trip?

Patrick: During our stay in Cambodia we had a free weekend, so Eric and I went to Koh Rong, an island in the Southwest.  While we were in Koh Rong, we rented kayaks and went to a small island where we found an abandoned Buddhist temple.  Exploring the ruins of the temple was surreal and incredible– definitely a highlight for me!

Eric: Like Patrick, Koh Rong was the highlight of my trip. We were grabbing dinner around dusk at a beachfront restaurant, and our waitress told us to wade out about a meter deep into the ocean once it was completely dark, then swish our arms around the water. We waded out, and as we churned our arms through the crystal clear Pacific, we realized that we were surrounded by tens of thousands of electric blue, bioluminescent plankton. It was unreal.

What was the most valuable lesson we learned on the trip so far?

Patrick: I learned to be more mindful of my environmental impact.  I saw so much litter in all of the cities, so much deforestation, and so much smog. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting to watch people destroy the environment like this, and it made me pay more attention to how my privileged position as an American gives me the ability to make choices to preserve the environment.  I also learned that I pay too much for coffee in America.  Vietnamese coffee is ten times better (and cheaper) than Starbucks!

Eric: During this trip, I became acutely aware of the impact that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and aid groups have on local communities. That being said, it is ESSENTIAL that you volunteer with and support organizations that do meaningful work. The sad reality is that there are many nonprofits that are marked by corruption or are working counterintuitively against their service population. Avoid putting time and resources into these organizations by heavily researching nongovernmental organizations before you donate and volunteer, especially abroad!

What is challenging you the most so far?

Patrick: Seeing such widespread poverty is really difficult. Even though poverty certainly exists in the U.S., it’s more frequent and visible in Cambodia and Vietnam.  Watching children dig through trash next to emaciated street dogs and seeing entire homes without electricity and plumbing opened my eyes to global inequality and suffering.  Although this was devastating, we visited NGOs working to break the cycle of poverty for entire villages, which gives me a lot of hope and optimism.

Eric: Each afternoon, we had a four hour block to traverse the cities we visited and interview locals for our research. This was intimidating at first, especially considering that I did not speak any Khmer or Vietnamese prior to the trip. After your first couple of interviews, however, this anxiety vanishes–everyone in Cambodia and Vietnam is incredibly friendly.

What was the craziest food you eaten (or plan to eat)?

Patrick: I tried to order scorpions but the restaurant was out, so instead I tried red tree ant soup.  The flavor wasn’t bad, but picking wings and legs from my teeth wasn’t too fun!

Eric: I ate a live snail off of the jungle floor in Mondulkiri. Always respect the sanctity of the double-dog dare. Also, thanks for the $20, Dr. Day!

Cofc’s Summer Abroad Program to Cambodia and Vietnam will provide students with both the structure of a holistic curriculum and the autonomy to make the trip their own. To find out more information, email Dr. Day at dayc@cofc.edu or Dr. Wright at wrightJJ1@cofc.edu.

Patrick is a sophomore political science and economics double major with a minor in Asian Studies.  This is his first study abroad experience.  Eric is a senior international studies and psychology double major with minors in Spanish and political science.  This is his fifth study abroad experience.

under: Faculty, Student

Brendan Geiling, a senior political science major and communication minor, wanted to gain experience in the emerging field of brand development so he contacted Charleston based Garden & Gun to see if they would be willing to host an intern. Geiling researched the magazine’s website, discovered that they had a team that specialized in his interests, and was able to secure the internship.

Charged with various brand development research projects, Geiling focused on social media, product development, and email marketing. He created copy for social media, assisted with art recommendations for ads for the magazine’s website, and researched software solutions to integrate the magazine’s commerce and email marketing software systems. He also had the opportunity to research the magazine’s brand partners and compile reports for company sponsors like Volvo.

Geiling noted that he pursued the internship because he is a tactile learner. Along with honing his teamwork and technical skills, Brendan quickly learned the importance of attention to detail. He enjoyed participating in the art recommendation process for advertisements and was amazed how the selection of products, background images, and fonts can be quite a time-consuming process. It reinforced for him how important it is for the magazine to have a cohesive brand image.

In addition, Geiling integrated his interest in social media into his political science capstone paper on the Arab Spring under the direction of Professor Chris Day. He studied how social media can be a tool for social justice and change. For example, he cited how social media helped Tunisia and Egypt create collective action which resulted in changing their government regimes. Geiling’s research on successful and unsuccessful models led him to create a guide on how to effectively use social media for social change.

Brendan became interested in social media while interning for a luxury retail company in high school and has forged a very intentional and unique career path. He has complimented his political science major with communication and computer science courses and taken on a number of social media-related jobs.  He intends to first pursue digital branding in the entertainment industry in either Los Angeles or New York City and then a political communications career.f

under: intern, Student

Political Science major and African American Studies minor Sarah Nesbit will participate in the highly selective Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Congressional Internship Program on Capitol Hill this summer. Offering three distinct internship programs, CBCF’s mission is to “prepare college students and young professionals to become principled leaders, skilled policy analysts, and informed advocates by exposing them to the processes that develop national policies and implement them from Capitol Hill to federal field offices.” The program will provide Nesbit with housing, a stipend, internship placement, and various networking opportunities. For eight weeks, she will intern with a U.S. Representative participating in bill writing, policy research, the legislative process, skills workshops, and formal events.

Among other requirements, the application process requires a demonstrated interest in public service, governance, or policy making; leadership and community service participation; and strong writing skills. Nesbit serves on the College of Charleston Honor Board, as a Student Ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and Vice-President of her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. She previously served as a Junior Senator and the Campus Diversity Liaison for the Student Government Association. Sarah facilitated the first diversity town hall at the college, which served as an open forum for minority students to voice their concerns and desire for change to administration officials. Nesbit is also active in the area of community service.  Within her sorority, she has organized community cleanups and backpack drives for middle and high school students, helped educate college students about health-related issues at informational events, and taught minority children in her hometown and Charleston classical ballet. Nesbit credits Dr. Lynne Ford’s “Women and Politics” and Dr. Valerie Frazier’s “African American Literature” classes in enhancing her writing skills.

Interested in the juvenile justice system, Nesbit aspires to pursue a graduate degree in public policy or education law before earning her law degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a judge.

Nesbit is the second political science major to be selected for this prestigious internship.  Trevor Jones participated in the CBCF Internship Program in 2016.

under: intern, Scholarships and Awards, Student

The Department of Political Science’s Dr. Gibbs Knotts received the 2017 Distinguished Research Award at the Celebration of Faculty ceremony on April 27. Established in 1977, the College of Charleston Distinguished Research Award recognizes one roster faculty member who has a significant research career and the award is based on the faculty member’s scholarly works within the past few years.

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Brian McGee presented the award to Dr. Knotts and noted, “Since hired as a chair of Political Science in 2012, Professor Gibbs Knotts has established an exceptional scholarly record while meeting the demands of leading a large department. As a scholar of Southern Politics, Gibbs has published a university-press book, fifteen peer reviewed articles, three book chapters, and over 30 op-ed pieces in local and national outlets that address timely and pressing issues related to local, state, regional and national politics.”

“Gibbs focuses on issues around the political impact of Southern identity,” said McGee. “His recently published coauthored book, The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People (UNC Press, 2017) is the culmination of analysis of how Southerners understand their Southern identity. As the Executive Editor of UNC Press noted, The Resilience of Southern Identity is ‘the first book in 30 years to use the tools of social scientists to investigate Southern identity.’ The committee tasked with selection for the Distinguished Research Award was also impressed with how Gibbs’ work reaches a wide audience inside academia as well as in the media.”

According to Dr. Knotts, his most recent book “documents the continuing strength of southern identity but also investigates why southern identity remains such a powerful force in the wake of in-migration, urbanization, and technological advancement.” He draws on literature in geography, history, American studies, sociology, psychology, and political science to explore this topic.

Dr. Knotts is the third political science professor to receive this distinguished award. Dr. Guoli Liu received this honor in 2005 and Dr. Jack Parson was recognized in 1987.

under: Faculty, Scholarships and Awards

Alumni Spotlight With Carmen Sessions Scott

Posted by: wichmannkm | May 1, 2017 | No Comment |

After graduating from the College of Charleston as a political science major in 1996, Carmen Sessions Scott earned her law degree at the University of South Carolina in 1999. She is currently a pharmaceutical mass tort litigation attorney for Motley Rice LLC. She has shared her expertise with well-known media outlets including The Associated Press, NBC News, Marie Claire, Mother Jones and The Safety Report. She has been named to the South Carolina Super Lawyers list and The Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Forty Under 40. The Political Science Department had the fortunate opportunity to learn more about Carmen’s successful career.

How did you become involved in pharmaceutical mass tort litigation and what types of cases have you managed?

Almost by accident. I clerked for a law firm in Columbia when I was in law school and the principal attorney at the firm was involved in the pharmaceutical litigation, Fen-Phen. Fen-Phen was a diet drug that was promoted to women and men to lose weight very quickly, but had devastating consequences, including a serious disease that required patients to undergo heart and lung transplants. Many of these individuals died. There was also a valvular issue of the heart that developed from taking this drug. That really began my love for this type of work because it involved not only my passion for helping people, but it sparked an interest in the science and medicine behind the law. I was able to go to work and not just read legal case law all day but also medical journals and explore a side of my brain I had not used. I didn’t have a science background, but doing this work made me realize I really loved it. There were a few other steps before I came to Motley Rice, but for almost my entire legal career, I have focused on pharmaceutical litigation. For the past 10 years, I have developed a niche in women’s litigation representing women who have been harmed by medical drugs and devices.

What background information do you need in science to be successful in medical cases?

A lot of it is self-taught. I spend a lot of time reading British Medical Journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Those journals are full of information about the current state of knowledge in the medical community about these drugs, how they interact with the users and the safety issues that might come up. I also work with experts who help me weed through the very complex issues that sometimes arrive in these cases. They help me understand the physiology and everything associated with how these drugs work in humans.

If I am going to present to a jury, I need to be able to tell them in three sentences what my case is about. I need to be able to process what is sometimes decades of research to reach a conclusion about how an adverse event can occur by the use of a drug or medical device and communicate that in very simple terms.

You have been quoted in well-known news media outlets and have served as speaker at various organizations. What kind of information do you share?

My speaking engagements have included community-oriented events where there is an interest in an issue that has arisen in the pharmaceutical community. For example, thousands of people who took a drug that was suddenly removed from the market may be unaware of the reasons why or the potential harm it may have caused. That’s why we sometimes sponsor and organize community events to educate people about these potentially dangerous drugs and devices.

When our firm takes on projects, we have to become extremely well-versed in those areas. Also, other attorneys often want to learn what we have spent a great deal of time studying, so I speak at attorney conferences about the current status of litigation, how to identify cases, and litigation strategies for various drugs and projects I am working on.

I have had the benefit of meeting some wonderful people in my work. However, the unfortunate part of what I do is that people don’t come see me on their best days; they come to see me on their worst days. Most people only come in contact with me when something really traumatic and devastating has happened to them or a family member. In one particular case, I represented a gentleman whose 32-year-old wife died in front of him and his children because she took a particular type of birth control. Her case was the first of its kind filed and, as a result, received a lot of local media attention in New Jersey where they lived. It also attracted attention from other news outlets like Mother Jones that were interested in learning more about how something as simple as a contraceptive choice could be a life-changing decision.

It sounds like you have an ethical obligation to educate people on these issues but also have to be very sensitive to the individuals affected by those cases.

Absolutely. One of the things I don’t think a lot of lawyers think about when they enter law school or the profession is that we are really called attorneys and counselors at law. I really think I use my counselor side more or equal to the amount of time that I actually operate as an attorney. I have to talk to people about awful personal issues that have occurred to them and their families. They need someone to talk to and someone they can trust. I have an obligation and duty to not only represent them to the fullest extent I can and be a zealous advocate for them, but to do so very sensitively and appreciate the sensitivity of the information that they are sharing with me.

A lot of what I do is also telling people that, unfortunately, we can’t help them, most often for a number of reasons. A lot of changes in the way our government works and some Supreme Court decisions in the past several years have affected individual rights. A lot of what I do is to help explain to people why it is so important to pay attention to what their government is doing, and to help them understand how these decisions trickle down and affect people on an everyday basis. It’s really hard to explain to someone that because they chose to take a generic drug versus a name brand drug that they may not have a claim. It’s hard for folks to understand.

The Department of Labor recently published that 36 percent of lawyers are women. Why do you think that percentage is low and what advice do you have for women who wish to pursue law?

I don’t know why that percentage is as low as it is. I will tell you that change is on the horizon. There has been a movement in the past couple of years on the federal court side to involve women in leadership roles and make sure that diversity is complete in representation before the court. I am involved in an area of law known as mass torts that is presided by federal court judges who appoint steering committees to represent the entire litigation. I serve on steering committees in several cases. A huge topic of discussion at judiciary conferences all over the country is that these panels have for far too long been made up of non-diverse individuals. Judges, and juries, want to see more women in these leadership roles particularly because many of the products that we are seeing in mass tort litigation are women’s products. It makes sense that women would be representing other women. I’m also proud to be part of a group called Women En Mass which is made up of over 250 women who litigate mass torts all over the country. This group is very much a part of this movement and very much a group that reaches down and pulls other women up, highlighting women’s achievements and making sure we are all prepared and have the resources we need to bust that glass ceiling wide open.

Can you talk about your volunteer work?

I have volunteered for a number of organizations over the years, but the main focus has been with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’ve worked with the South Carolina chapter for nine years. Six of those years I served on the board for the South Carolina chapter. For each of those nine years, I have been a wish granter, which means I assist families and children who are eligible for wishes in making their dreams come true. It’s one of those organizations that really hugs you back. It has been one of the most meaningful things I have ever done.

under: Alumni

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