Peace Corps is a Great Spring Board into Law School
Prior to attending Villanova Law School, Kirsten studied economics, management, and communications at Cornell University. Unsure of a career path, she decided to follow her high school dream and join the United States Peace Corps. After the arduous application process, she was accepted into the Peace Corps as a Business and Organizational Development volunteer and embarked on her journey to the Kingdom of Tonga in July 2006. She advised the Tongan Department of Fisheries on the outer islands of Ha’apai, co-facilitated coastal community workshops and training programs on fishing practices, and re-established the Ha’apai Youth Congress to provide young people with essential skills and knowledge. The twenty-seven months spent in Tonga afforded her the opportunity to discover that she wanted to become an attorney.
The VLS community is very close and provides students with ample opportunities to pursue any particular field of law of interest. Environmental law piqued Kirsten’s interest after working in the fisheries sector in the Peace Corps, and she set a personal goal to join the Villanova Environmental Law Journal (ELJ). The ELJ extended Kirsten an invitation to become a Staff Member, which prompted her to set two more personal goals: to have an article published in the ELJ, and to become the Editor-in-Chief of the ELJ. The article she wrote during the fall semester of her second year, titled “Bats and Breezes Take on Federal Policy: The Windy Effects of Animal Welfare Institute v. Beech Ridge Energy,” focused on the intersection of renewable energy sources and the protection of endangered species, and it was chosen for publication in the ELJ. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of the Villanova Environmental Law Journal, where she has the opportunity to work closely with fellow law students to publish the next two issues of the Journal.
Q&A with Kirsten
Q: Why Villanova?
A: I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and knew immediately that I wanted to attend Villanova University School of Law. After living abroad for quite some time, I knew I wanted to remain close to my family. I spoke with several alumni about their experiences at VLS, and their noticeable pride and commitment towards their alma mater were indicative of the school’s close community.
Q: What are the best things (professors, activities, classes, etc.) about Villanova?
A: The professors, faculty, and staff are by far Villanova’s best asset! Every individual at VLS is dedicated to assisting the success of the law students. I remember being particularly impressed and grateful for our professor’s commitment to the students during the first semester of my first year. A friend and I were reviewing Criminal Law the night prior to our exam, when we realized we were a bit confused regarding a particular concept. Rather than reply via e-mail, our professor, Dean Chanenson, personally called us close to midnight to talk us through the concept and ensure our complete comprehension. VLS professors will truly go to great lengths to better our student body.
Q: How has your experience in the Peace Corps impacted your law school career (or alternatively, contributed to your success as a leader in the VLS community)?
A: Without a clear long-term career path in mind prior to my stint in the Peace Corps, I endeavored to utilize my experiences as a means to evaluate my future. Those personal assessments helped me recognize my desire to become a lawyer, led me to our amazing VLS community, and helped me realize my passion for both environmental law and international adoptions.
My experiences in the Peace Corps also enabled me to hone my communication and leadership skills, both of which have proven greatly beneficial at VLS. The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with my Tongan counterparts was essential to the success of my projects in the Peace Corps. I utilize and rely on those same communication skills in the classroom at VLS, as well as in preparation for becoming a lawyer. In order to productively encourage and advance my various projects in Ha’apai, I became a leader within my community and guided those whom I worked alongside to reap the benefits of our hard work. Similarly, as the Editor-in-Chief of the ELJ, I strive to lead and work with my colleagues to collectively produce noteworthy editions of our journal.
Q: What was the most valuable lesson you learned this summer while working as a fellow at the Support Center for Child Advocates?
A: The Support Center for Child Advocates is a truly remarkable non-profit organization dedicated to representing abused and neglected children in Philadelphia County. One of the most valuable lessons I learned over this summer is the importance and value in building strong relationships with both clients and colleagues. In addition to representing the minor clients in the courtroom, the legal staff at the Support Center visit with their clients in their homes and schools in order to build solid relationships with the children, discern the children’s best interests, and learn the children’s wishes.
Q: What are the easiest ways for students to learn more about, or become more involved with, public service at VLS?
A: There are several student organizations at VLS that focus on public interest, one of which is the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP). PIFP is an exceptional organization dedicated to assisting VLS students interested in public service, thus I became involved in the organization during my first year at VLS. I was fortunate to receive a PIFP Fellowship this past summer, which enabled me to work at the Support Center for Child Advocates.
Q: What is the most influential book you have read?
A: “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. To this day, I often re-read this book as a reminder to embrace my creativity, never fear obstacles, and the importance of family. When Max faced the roaring wild things, he utilized his personal strengths to transform the situation rather than evade the challenge. Everyone faces obstacles throughout life, but those obstacles are not insurmountable with creativity and resilience. Just as Max returned to his loving home after his adventures, I always know that my family is by my side wherever my personal endeavors lead.
Q: What is one item on your bucket list?
A: Take a motorcycle or convertible excursion through Italy to explore the majestic country and the spectacular vineyards.