“Everyone Has the Right to be Heard”: Political Science Major Prepares for Law Career

The freshman year of high school for many college-bound students means focusing on strong academic performance, selecting challenging classes, and participating in extracurricular activities, all to build a solid record of achievement for the college application process.

Mary Offutt ’20 was already looking ahead as well to what would be her college destination.

During her freshman year, Offutt, who hails from Sterling, Virginia, met Ashley Browning, Hollins’ vice president for enrollment management. “We continued to stay in touch about admission events and other information about Hollins,” she recalls. What ultimately convinced her to choose Hollins, she says, were “the small class sizes and Ashley. Additionally, when I toured campus I fell completely in love with the beauty of the campus, and I appreciated how nice everyone was at the events I attended, from faculty and staff to current students.”

Considering her diligent early college preparatory work, it is not surprising that Offutt also determined her academic aspirations in advance. “I came to Hollins planning on majoring in political science, knowing that my goal was to go to law school,” she explains. To that end, she independently discovered internships throughout her Hollins career.

“In 2018,” she notes, “I started an internship with a family law firm in Leesburg, Virginia. Since then, I’ve worked there on all my breaks and throughout the year. This summer, I will be doing a clerkship with them.”

Offutt also credits Hollins’ study abroad program for having had “a huge impact on my life. I was in London for the entirety of my sophomore year and it was an amazing experience, being able to travel to a multitude of different countries to experience their culture and beauty. There are no words to truly describe it other than ‘life-changing.’”

When she began the application process for law school, Offutt says Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette was “a huge help. Her classes made me even more passionate about the law. I learned from her that cases are about people, and I believe that everyone has the right to be heard.”

This fall, Offutt will begin pursuing her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at the Charleston School of Law in South Carolina. In many ways, her reasons for choosing the school for her legal education are similar to why she picked Hollins. “They have small class sizes, an individualized course experience, and an amazing externship program,” she says. “Plus, the beautiful city of Charleston was a large draw.”

After law school, Offutt  intends to take the Virginia state bar examination and join a family law firm in Northern Virginia as an associate.

 

 


Eager to Perform “Meaningful Work with Impact at the State Level,” Political Science Major Pursues Master of Public Policy at UVa

Since coming to Hollins as a first-year student, Hannah Byrum ’20 has been drawn to the study of legislation enacted by state government and the importance of leadership as it relates to policy.

Beginning this fall, the political science major will immerse herself in what she describes as “the best of both worlds” through the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. 

“As a student in the MPP program, you get to tackle the most pressing issues of the world in a variety of ways while also working on your leadership and team-building abilities,” Byrum says. “My emphasis while there will continue to be on state policy analysis.”

During her first two years at Hollins, Byrum laid the groundwork for a career in government and politics. She performed January Short Term internships as a first-year student and as a sophomore with government relations firms in Richmond, Virginia, that focus on state public policy issues: Commonwealth Strategy Group and Pickral Consulting. She subsequently completed a summer internship with the constituent services team in the Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. In January of this year, she interned with the Office of Delegate Karrie Delaney, who represents the 67th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates. While in the latter role, Byrum helped write several pieces of legislation that were passed during the most recent Virginia General Assembly session.

“The internships provided me with an opportunity to apply what I had learned in class to the real world while also bringing conversation and a new perspective to the classroom,” Byrum says. “Seeing such strong and passionate people representing the needs of constituents and interest groups helped direct my career path of working with Virginia’s lawmakers on legislation.”

After completing her General Assembly legislation work, Byrum noticed discrepancies in how human sex trafficking laws in Virginia were approached. “The political science department requires a research methods course,” she notes, “and that was when I realized I wanted to focus my research on human sex trafficking.” Byrum went on to devote her honors thesis to examining the human trafficking laws and bills that were presented during the 2020 General Assembly.

“I dissect the language in those laws and bills and identify potential inconsistencies that could result in victims not receiving the safeguards and services they need. I make recommendations for language that should be included in future legislation. I also offer general direction for more assistance and general protections under the law that will be beneficial to victims.”

Byrum praises two of her professors, Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch and Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette, for having “a substantial impact on my education.” As a student in Lynch’s first-year seminar course, “How to be a President,” Byrum was invited to attend a lecture on international relations and global politics at the University of Virginia. “I knew then how much I wanted to attend UVa for graduate school,” she recalls.

Chenette was Byrum’s thesis advisor. “She has provided so much feedback, encouragement, and excitement for my work,” Byrum says. “I cannot thank her enough.”

The Williamsburg, Virginia, native believes that she would not have had the amount of success she has had at Hollins if it were not for Lynch and Chenette’s support. “Both of them care so much for the success of their students and want to see us work hard for what we want. They aren’t going to sugar-coat things and that’s what makes them incredible as professors.”

Byrum also cites the tools she has gained from her involvement with the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins. “I can confidently navigate personal, academic, or professional conflict in a way that is extremely effective, and improve communication when tensions may be high. I learned how to be a better leader in every aspect of my life. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Batten when I started my first year, but thanks to (Executive Director) Abrina Schnurman, my experience went far beyond what I could have imagined.”

After completing the MPP program at UVa, Byrum says she “would love to dive head-first into meaningful work with impact at the state level,” whether that is with a government relations firm or state government entity. Working on a campaign or as a legislative aide for a state delegate or senator is also a possibility.

“All I know for certain is, I want to continue to serve my community to the best of my ability, however that may present itself.”

 


Johns Hopkins Internship Propels Senior Gates Millennium Scholar to MPH Program at Brown

One of the nation’s largest and most ambitious scholarship initiatives, the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program helps African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with high academic and leadership potential, and with financial need, realize their higher education aspirations.

For Epa Cabrera ’20, GMS made possible her journey from her home on Saipan in the western Pacific Ocean’s Northern Mariana Islands to study at Hollins University. The program also enabled the business and economics double major to take advantage of real-world experiences outside the classroom. One of those opportunities was working as a research assistant during this year’s January Short Term at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“My J-term experience enhanced my interest in public health and inspired me to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree,” Cabrera notes. She subsequently applied to and earned admission at some of the country’s most prestigious MPH schools: the Milken Institute of Public Health at The George Washington University; the Boston University School of Public Health; the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Public Health; the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University; Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; and the Brown University School of Public Health.

“I was admitted to some amazing MPH programs,” she explains, “and after weighing the pros and cons of each, I decided Brown was the best fit for me. I was drawn by its emphasis on applying the skills that we, as students, would learn with hands-on practical experience through internships.”

Cabrera was also impressed with the caliber of Brown’s faculty. “The School of Public Health offers a cadre of world-renowned researchers who focus on a number of topics in which I am particularly interested in exploring. For instance, I’d like to work closely with Associate Professor of Epidemiology Eric Loucks. His examination into social factors that influence cardiovascular disease aligns with my current thesis on obesity in women and its consequences for the U.S. labor supply. I’m also intrigued by recent research undertaken by Bess Marcus, dean of the School of Public Health, which investigates low-cost interventions to promote physical behavior in habitual environments.”

After completing the two-year MPH program at Brown, Cabrera wants to engage in public health projects on a global scale. “I hope to contribute to protecting the well-being of individuals by supporting policies and strategies worldwide through the World Health Organization.” Her long-range goals include completing a doctorate in public health.

Cabrera praises GMS for enabling her to graduate this spring debt-free and able to continue her education without an economic burden. At the same time, she says, “I am grateful for the professors, deans, and the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins. They have exceedingly given me support and encouragement throughout my time here.”


Through Presidential Associate Program, Senior Aspires to Become One of The Estée Lauder Companies’ Future Leaders

Monica Osborne ’20 has always loved makeup and the beauty industry. So, when she toured Hollins during high school and learned the university offered a signature internship with The Estée Lauder Companies, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of skin care, makeup, fragrance, and hair care products, “I knew where I was going to college,” she says.

This summer, Osborne is heading to New York City to join The Estée Lauder Companies’ Presidential Associate Program. As part of the organization’s Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability department, she will spend the next 18 months engaged in customized professional rotations while receiving continuous leadership development, coaching, mentoring, and hands-on practical experience. “The goal of the program,” she explains, “is to help attract, retain, and develop the best future leaders of the company.”

The senior from Independence, Virginia, was selected for the program after an application process that included three rounds of interviews. She plans to use her time as a Presidential Associate to grow her knowledge of the company and determine which facet of the business she likes best to inform any possible graduate school plans.

Osborne set the stage for this opportunity in September of her junior year when she was awarded The Estée Lauder Companies’ signature internship that captured her attention as a prospective Hollins student. “My love for the company began on my first day when I met several strong, intelligent, career-driven women. I simply knew it was where I wanted to work because of their culture of supporting women.”

She adds, “I firmly believe that I was chosen for the internship due to everything I learned at Hollins.” A communication studies major with a minor in French (“I learned a brand new language and studied abroad in Paris.”), Osborne also boasts a certificate in leadership from the Batten Leadership Institute and completed seven different internships over the course of her four years at Hollins through the university’s Career Center.

“As a first-generation college student, Hollins truly allowed me to grow at my own pace and step out of my comfort zone. I learned how to advocate for myself and embrace adventure in all forms. The bonds I built with my other classmates and peers meant that I could learn and grow in a fun and supportive environment. I loved every moment.”

Osborne notes that she has been inspired throughout her undergraduate career by “the amazing number of alumnae/i who have done and are doing such impressive work in the world. I am also thankful for the professors, staff members, and everyone in-between who have had such an impact on students’ experiences like mine. The Hollins community is like none other and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

 

Photo Credit: Michael Falco


“Every Moment at Hollins Led to this Job”: Senior Prepares to Support Mission of Economic Mobility

To understand the impact of career preparation at Hollins, look no further than the experience of Laura “Mitch” Mitchell ’20.

Through the university’s Signature Internship Program, the business and economics double major pursued a January Short Term opportunity this year at America Needs You (ANY), a New York City-based agency that seeks to improve college completion and employment rates for first-generation college students. The internship was set up by Emily Daniels ’06, who serves as ANY’s chief external affairs officer.

“It felt like the perfect match from the beginning,” Mitchell recalls. “Although I am not a first-generation college student myself, I felt compelled by the mission of fighting for economic mobility. I knew it would be a great place to apply my educational background toward a meaningful impact.”

During J-term, Mitchell worked with ANY’s external affairs team. After her internship ended, she was invited to continue with the department as a paid consultant for two additional months. “Wonderfully, a month into my consultancy I was offered a development coordinator role, which started on a part-time basis after my consulting contract ended and will continue until I graduate,” she states. “I’ll go full-time on June 1.”

As development coordinator, Mitchell will play a key role in executing ANY’s fundraising strategy and supporting the planning of special events across the agency’s national network. In addition to working with staff in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, she will help oversee gift processing and data management and coordinate digital social media campaigns.

Daniels, who supervised Mitchell’s J-term internship, will continue to be her boss. “She’s an incredible role model and I am endlessly grateful for her commitment of giving back to Hollins,” Mitchell says. “It’s inspiring for me to work alongside someone who shares the Hollins spirit and values what it means to be a woman who started at Hollins. I hope next year we can host more Hollins interns, and that I can even supervise one. I think it’s incredible when the giving comes full circle.”

Mitchell believes “every moment at Hollins led perfectly to this job and into the nonprofit field.” Her ability to think innovatively and solve problems grew from the education she received as a business major, while her study of economics helped hone her research and analytical skills. “I was also lucky to take five gender and women’s studies courses, all of which motivated me to transform my knowledge into impactful application.”

Outside the classroom, Mitchell completed two internships prior to her work in January with ANY that she notes were vital in preparing her for her new job and the workplace in general. During her first year at Hollins, she interned with the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in Roanoke, and then worked for the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce in Colorado her sophomore year. She was also active in Hollins’ Early Transition Program for three years, “which taught me the value of mentorship, both as mentor and mentee, and how critical it is to have support systems for racial minorities.” As chair of the Hollins Activity Board this year, she says she gained valuable knowledge about event planning and teamwork, and as a student-athlete on the university’s soccer and track and field teams, she learned about perseverance and the importance of consistently working hard.

“My time in clubs such as the Arts Association and the Asian Student Alliance has offered me encouragement to explore my interests and invest in my curiosity,” she adds, “and being a part of student government leadership throughout my four years at Hollins has taught me to model excellence and strive to be the leader for others that I would want for myself.”

Long-term, Mitchell hopes to continue working in nonprofit development with a focus on planning fundraising events. “I’m very interested in economic development, so I’m also considering government work in the future.”

Overall, Mitchell sees limitless possibilities ahead for herself. “I’m looking forward to taking advantage of all the learning and skill-building I can get in the first years of my career. My academic and extracurricular experiences at Hollins have prepared me well for any endeavor that comes my way, and I am appreciative of everyone at Hollins who has contributed to my journey – mentors, professors, coaches, advisors, peers, staff, alumnae, and the campus community as a whole.

“I have a lot to be thankful for.”