This fall, Fordham Law welcomed 401 new J.D. students to the School. The students come from 23 states, three provinces, and the District of Columbia. Over 130 different colleges and universities are represented by the entering class.
What makes the entering J.D. class remarkable is the unconventional path that some of them took to get to Fordham Law: volunteering with the Peace Corps and participating in an internship with the Human Rights Commission of the Dominican Republic; heading the compliance section of a private equity firm based in New York; working as an oncologic pathologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Here, three newly admitted J.D. students explain why they chose Fordham Law.
Speaking Two Languages: Medicine and Law
Prior to joining Fordham Law, Dr. Maureen Zakowski spent 20 years as a pathologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Zakowski specializes in diagnosing lung cancer and other cancers on small tumor samples obtained through minimally invasive procedures. Throughout her career she has seen numerous ways in which law and medicine constantly cross paths, and she wants to be able “to speak both languages.”
Zakowski was inspired to make Fordham Law School her first choice by her daughter, who is a junior studying journalism at the University’s Rose Hill campus. Zakowski saw how much her daughter was enjoying her college experience and knew Fordham would be a great fit for her, too.
“The more my daughter liked Fordham, the more I liked Fordham,” Zakowski said.
After deciding to attend Fordham Law, Zakowski moved professionally to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she can work part-time while taking classes.
“I have a different perspective than most students. I’m lucky because I don’t have to prove anything, and I don’t have anything to lose,” she said. “It’s intimidating being in classes with smart young people; as a professor of pathology, I am used to asking the questions not answering them!”
“Law school is going to be a challenge for me in many ways, but I am lucky to be in class with such gifted and enthusiastic students and teachers,” she added. “I think I am better off at Fordham than I would be at any other school.”
Securing Rights For the Underrepresented
Jessie Boas was motivated to go to law school through her experiences as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and observing people without access to legal representation.
After two years volunteering with the Peace Corps, Boas stayed in the DR and started an internship with the Human Rights Commission. She worked with Haitian migrant workers for one year and saw firsthand the challenges endured by those lacking adequate representation and legal knowledge.
Boas had the opportunity to work with Dominican lawyers who represented women who didn’t have access or knowledge of the law. Many of the women had been abandoned by their husbands and were unsure how to take ownership of their belongings and custody of their children.
“I was witnessing case after case of people not knowing that they could use the law to their benefit,” Boas said. “I wish I had known the law so that I could have helped them. I want to learn the laws of our country so that I can help people in similar situations in the United Sates.”
“In the future I hope to be able to work with vulnerable populations, not only immigrants, but people who deserve equal rights,” Boas said. “I want to be able to help people secure their rights, because at the end of the day we all deserve them.”
While Boas enjoyed her time in the DR and found herself well integrated to her community of San José de Ocoa, she was eager to reestablish a home base in New York, which is why she chose to enroll at Fordham Law.
“New York City is dynamic and constantly transforming, so it is a great location for the career I hope to have one day,” she said.
Ready for a New Challenge
Huwaida Hassan has worked for five years in the compliance department of Siguler Gulf, a private equity firm that specializes in multi-manager and direct investment funds. Hassan graduated from Yale in 2005 with a degree in political science. She now serves as vice president of compliance for the firm and has found herself at a point in her life where she is ready to take on a new challenge.
“Even just three years ago, if you had told me I’d be going to law school I would have said you were crazy,” Hassan said. “My career has just evolved in this way.”
Hassan’s decision to go to law school stems from working with lawyers at her Siguler. She will continue working with the firm while taking evening classes at Fordham Law.
“A huge push for me to go back to school was very personal. It was very much wanting to challenge myself and wanting to go back into an academic environment, not necessarily for a specific career outcome but more so for the personal growth and opportunities that come with having a law degree,” Hassan said.
In the grand scheme of things, Hassan would like to be able to use her law degree to do something more. Her father was a refugee from Palestine, which inspires her to help other immigrants and refuges.
“I would really like to be a part of that solution,” she said. “I’ve been really moved by the refugee crisis that has emerged these past few years, and I’m very interested in seeing how I can be more active in helping in that area. While it’s not something I ever see meeting my primary career, I’m interested in exploring it as a side interest.”