LSJ alums Rachel Mathisen and Steven Yim along with PhD geography student Brandon Derman spoke to LSJ students on Feb. 29 at the Professional and Graduate School Panel Discussion about why they chose to attend law school, public policy school or graduate school, and offered advice about life after graduation.
LSJ senior Lily Jirapolchet said that the event was a good way for her to gain insight on career options and what to do after graduation.
“I’m a first generation college student and people have an idea of what professional and graduate school is about and I have no idea because my parents don’t have those stories to share with me,” Jirapolchet said. “It’s good to hear from someone who went through the same process to see what they did to get there.”
Brandon Derman, one of the panelists spoke about how he took a year off before starting his studies and started to work at a hedge fund at an investment bank company before he decided to pursue a PhD in the geography department at UW.
Jirapolchet said that she learned the most from Derman’s ability to change career paths.
“I think from his story I learned that nothing is ever certain and that I think the type of person who goes out and completely changed what they were doing are the ones that know most about themselves and about continuing education,” she said.
Derman said that it was a struggle figuring out what to do after graduation and that he needed to find a path where he could contribute to society.
“You need a job but you need your life to take on meaning for you, too,” Derman said. “For me, it’s really important to think about the role in society and the market that I play and what I put my time into.”
Rachel Mathisen, who graduated from the LSJ program in 2008 and is now a third-year law student at UW, advised students to think about what classes that they are most interested in when deciding what to do after graduation.
She said that it was her Introduction to Criminal Justice class with Professor Steve Herbert that sparked her interest in criminal justice and that her International Human Rights course with Professor Jamie Mayerfeld kept her passionate about human rights.
While she said that her classes inspired her to pursue a law degree, she advised students that law school is different than other graduate programs because it is a professional program.
Derman explained that there are many differences between graduate school and professional programs.
“You have to be a self starter, you have to have discipline and organization because you are kind of like your own boss and that sometimes looks different to me than the professional programs,” he said. “There are expectations of me in a graduate program but I choose those expectations.”
While Mathisen said that her classes in LSJ were helpful in narrowing down her interests, she said that there is not a way to prepare for law school.
“Law school trains you to think differently… and I don’t think anybody would be at an advantage or disadvantage in law school depending on their major. I think it’s pretty open,” she said. “There are a lot of people in law school that come from different disciplines, there’s a doctor in my class, students with PhDs and students who are just right out of undergrad.”
Mathisen said that students should try to have as many experiences as possible because it will help them figure out what to do after graduation.
“The more experience you can get the better and the more things you can do to narrow down what your interests are the better, so you are more clear about what you want to do,” Mathisen said.
Steven Yim, who graduated from the LSJ program in 2006 and is now a masters’ student in public administration at Seattle University, said it was important for students to get experience before they apply to professional or graduate programs.
“They are looking for experience you can draw off and take into the classroom with you,” Yim said.
Yim explained that internships are a great way to build experience. He said that he was an intern at Senator Maria Cantwell’s office before getting his current job as part of her community outreach team.
“I think internships are great and I think they can jumpstart a career. They can be a good experience to draw off for graduate school,” he said.
Derman explained that volunteering is another great way to build experience.
“Volunteering helps, too. It lets you see another world outside of the classroom. It gives you more to write about and to think about as you get ready to go back to school,” Derman said.
Jirapolchet said that the advice that the panelists gave will help her find a path after graduation, and that it was comforting to see other LSJ students there with similar questions.
“Events like these let students see others in the major and to know that they are not the only one concerned about their future,” she said.
This article was composed by Charlotte Anthony.