LSJ Offers New Seminar "Learning From Failure: Lessons from LSJ Alumni"

Submitted by Medha Raman on
LSJ Alum Roxanne Vierra Speaks to LSJ Majors About Failure, Photo Credit: Alexa Sinclair

By Medha Raman | LSJ Communications Assistant 

Most students consider failure to be fatal, especially when it comes to their future careers. However, even the most successful people have their fair share of failures.  Learning to grow from failure, to cope with new challenges, and to employ resilience in the face of obstacles are all an essential part of being successful.

A new LSJ Seminar, “Learning from Failure: Lessons from LSJ Alumni” brought these ideas to the forefront by inviting one LSJ Alumni each week to speak about their experiences with failure in their career paths. Alumni ranged from James Louie, the Director of Microsoft Global Security Investigations, to Louise Berman, a school counselor in Snohomish, displaying the breadth of an LSJ education.

The course was offered for the first time this spring, and was deeply appreciated by the 16 students who were enrolled.

“It was really interesting to hear a diverse number of stories and see where everyone took their LSJ experience,” said LSJ senior Hannah Cheney. “There are so many different ways that you take this major and this class just goes to show that.”

“What I enjoyed about this course was that it gave us the opportunity to learn that failure is a part of life and it is a great teacher,” said LSJ senior Shankaron Mohamed.  “Each and every alumnus, all from different walks of life, shared personal stories for us to learn from their mistakes.”

One sample class took place on May 17, and featured LSJ alum and attorney Reyna Rollolazo from the youth advocacy group and legal service, Team Child. As a Discipline Coalition Coordinator for the organization, Rollolazo works with educators and community members to eliminate extreme disciplinary measures and the exclusion of children of color in South King County schools.

Rollolazo’s passion for social justice began at a young age. Growing up in an immigrant household and constantly reminded of her grandparents’ sacrifices, her family embedded in her a desire to learn about inequalities in the world. Her decision to major in LSJ after coming to UW only solidified this interest.

“LSJ gave me that legal lens and showed me how law is a part of every system and institution in our lived reality,” Rollolazo said. “It showed me how law can be used to perpetrate injustice in society or to oppose it.”

However, before finding her dream job working with Team Child to fight injustice, Rollolazo faced her fair share of challenges as a young woman of color navigating the legal field. From getting into law school to feeling at home there to landing her first job, she faced several obstacles.  Yet she persevered. 

In the face of challenges, she shared with the class, “the biggest thing for me was identifying where my source of strength was and returning back to that.”

Her key pieces of advice: “Know your values. Know what you want to be driven by. And trust that the right opportunity will come along.”

This advice resonated with several students in the class, including senior K Wheeler.

“Even if law school or your plan A doesn’t work out, this class shows me that you can make a change with any interests you have,” Wheeler said. “It’s very inspiring.”

Similar sentiments were shared by other students.

“My time in this class has not only given me hope for my future and the futures of my peers,” said LSJ senior Alexa Sinclar, “but it has inspired me to do even more.  Hearing from such a wide variety of LSJ alumni really helped me to know that my passion will surely guide me through life, and that is something I truly look forward to experiencing.”

Professor Steve Herbert, who oversaw the course along with LSJ adviser Alyssa Penner, was overjoyed with how well the course developed.  He was especially appreciative of the eagerness of the alumni to participate and to share their stories.

“Some of the stories we heard required the alums to be extraordinarily open and honest,” Herbert said.  “I was amazed by their willingness to do so, and just as amazed by the impact it had on the students. We began this class as something as an experiment.  We will continue to offer it, because it so clearly benefited the students who were involved.”


A full list of the involved alumni is below:

Anica Stieve, Project Manager, Center for Children & Youth Justice

John Kydd, Owner, John W. Kydd P.S.

Martina Kartman, Gates Public Law Scholar, UW Law’ Legal and Community Organizing Intern, API Chaya

James Louie, Director, Microsoft Global Security Investigations

Louise Berman, School Counselor, Snohomish School District

Michael Weier,Of Counsel, Law Offices of Reinisch Wilson Weier PC

Reyna Rollolazo, Attorney, Team Child

Roxanne Vierra, Civil Rights Specialist, King County

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