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Would you believe that nationwide, more than one of every eight people who applied to a law school applied to GW Law? Would you believe that GW Law received more than 10,800 applications this year? Would you believe that among GW Law’s 475 admitted first-year students are a nuclear sub commander, a bouncer for the Lizard Lounge, and—not surprisingly—a LSAT instructor who scored 98 percent on his own LSAT? And that’s just the beginning. It is truly impossible to generalize about this year’s incoming class, but the statistics are too interesting to ignore. The class rates high in academic achievement, with a median grade point average of 3.5 and a median LSAT score of 164 (highest ever for GW). Educationally, 61 members of the new class hold master’s degrees, and 11 have earned doctorates.

Gender-wise, the breakdown is remarkably even—49 percent (231) males, 51 percent (244) females. The geographical spread, however, is wide. The new law students come from several countries and 39 U.S. states, including the District of Columbia. The five states most highly represented are New York, Maryland, Virginia, California, and Florida.

In terms of undergraduate institutions, the schools with the largest representation in the class of ’06 are the University of Maryland (21); University of Michigan (16); University of North Carolina (14); GW (12); UCLA (11); Georgetown (11); University of Virginia (11); Duke University (10); Penn State (10); and University of Florida (9). The list of schools having the most student applicants is topped by the University of Michigan, with 270 applicants. Forty-nine schools had 50 or more applicants, and 145 schools had 15 or more.

And, who are these people? The class includes numerous military officers, including the second in command of a nuclear submarine; a former Enron employee; a cinema professor from Colombia; a sixth grade teacher; a foreign service officer; a cancer researcher; a news producer; a sports copy editor; a U.S. House press secretary; two Peace Corps volunteers; a minor league hockey executive; a high school track and soccer coach; and a jazz pianist.

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs David M. Johnson may be guilty of the understatement of the year when he tells us, “It’s quite a class.”

And still we wonder, who are these people? We talked with a few of them.


Wendy Arends with Hillary Clinton

I’ve been an advocate all my life, one way or another,” says new GW evening law student Wendy Arends, when asked why she’s in law school. And, hearing a recitation of the jobs she’s already had, one understands better her interest in advocacy.

A native of Troy, Mich., and a graduate of the University of Michigan, Arends traces her interest in law and in Washington, D.C., to her youth, when she was chosen to be a page in the U.S. House of Representatives. Subsequently she had internships on the Hill and in the White House. Following graduation, she volunteered with the national advance staff of the Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign, and she subsequently worked in White House Scheduling in the Office of the First Lady.

Currently, evening-student Arends works days as a government relations associate for the National Breast Cancer Coalition, where she lobbies and writes testimony for the 70,000-member group. She chose GW Law School, she says, because it has “a great evening program, and at GW Law you definitely have one foot in the professional world” while you’re a student.

As to the future, Arends says she doesn’t have it all mapped out at this point; she prefers to let things develop. Looking at her past, that idea seems a continuation of what has worked for her in the past. But one thing is very likely: Whatever her future holds, advocacy will be a very large part of it.

A True Public Servant

Nisa Gosselink with United Airlines ramp workers at Reagan National Airport

At age 30, Nisa Gosselink realized that her “someday” was fast approaching. She had always wanted to go to law school—a desire that stemmed from “wanting to save the world” one day through public service.

Now, a year later, Nisa is a full-time student at GW Law who is keeping her options open to the variety of career paths a law degree can provide. But whether she knows it or not, she’s already helped to save the world.

As a supervisor of airport operations for United Airlines, Gosselink was on duty at Reagan National Airport in Washington on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. After beginning her United career in Hawaii (where she also met her husband), she arrived at the D.C. airport position after having most recently worked in an office job for United. “When you work for an airline, you feel like you’re not really doing the job unless you’re at the airport; that’s really what it’s about,” she says.

At National, she had direct supervisory responsibility for some 46 people and was responsible for anything that could come up at the airport on a given day. It’s work that is thankless yet rewarding, she says, recalling one of the more gratifying occasions when she helped a stranded woman one night make it to an out-of-town wedding the next afternoon.

She recalls the irony of that week in September. “On September 10, I had started taking my last LSAT prep course. On the morning of September 11, I parked my car and thought what a great day it was going to be.”

Of course nothing was farther from the truth. Their first glimpse of the news was on television with reporters suggesting that the first hit to the towers was by a small plane, she says. “There was a captain standing next to me saying, ‘That was no small plane.’”

Gosselink had to address her customers. “As this had never happened before, I suggested to them that they might as well go home and watch the news,” she says. “And then I watched as a look of horror came over their faces—that’s when the big mushroom cloud rose from the plane hitting the Pentagon.”

Gosselink and the United team then worked to secure all planes in the vicinity and to safely evacuate the airport. “The challenge for us was to get information to our customers and still maintain communications with our groups in Chicago and our employees around the airport. At that point, all we knew was there was a plane coming this way and that we had to get out quickly. It no longer becomes about the property. These were people like me who had left their cars that morning and the world was good.”

While Gosselink left United in order to pursue her studies full time, she appreciated the time she spent there. In the beginning of the school year, she had found at least one other former airline employee among the ranks of the incoming class—someone in which to share war stories unique to their industry.

That horrid day is all behind her now, she says. After concentrating on trying to have a successful first semester in school, Gosselink is looking forward to exploring her new career options.

A New Game

Ben Slocum steals a moment with the coveted Stanley Cup.

A hockey and lacrosse player in college, Ben Slocum was fascinated by the business of sports. After college, and some 125 resumes later, he landed a job with the Lake Charles Ice Pirates, a minor league hockey team of the Western Professional Hockey League.

And so began his career in sports, handling jobs ranging from ticket sales to corporate marketing. After moving from the Lake Charles team to the Lowell (Massachusetts) Lock Monsters and then on to the American Hockey League’s Kentucky Thoroughblades, he began to see the writing on the wall.

“The industry doesn’t work exactly the way you might think,” he says. Having seen “that you can purchase an athlete as a commodity the way you can purchase anything else, I started to realized that the law is where the paper comes together and where you get the transactions done.”

The Thoroughblades were sold just before Slocum was scheduled to take his LSAT, so he packed up and came back home to Northern Virginia.

Although he is the son of a Navy man who had to move his family often, Slocum spent most of his time in Virginia and calls Vienna, Va., his home. “Disappointingly so,” Slocum says, the Navy was not an option for him because of a ruptured disc in his back from a lacrosse injury.

“GW Law was my first choice over Georgetown,” he says of his decision to attend law school. As a full-time student, he picked GW Law, in part, for its true campus atmosphere.

While Slocum is not yet committed to any one area of the law, some previous summer work in aircraft financial transactions has created some interest. “The aviation industry as a whole just fascinates me—the legal and the business world that surrounds it. And I’m definitely planning on taking some classes in labor unions.”

But his time in the sports world did not go wasted. “One of the things about working is sports was that I enjoyed it so much as a hobby that working in it just tapped out all of my enjoyment. I learned that for me, it’s not really a good thing to take an avocation and make it a vocation. It became really hard for me to be a hockey fan.”

Will he return to sports after law school? “Maybe one day as an owner,” he says, smiling. Until that time, he’s considering contract law, with an eye toward getting back into aviation.

Coming Home

Tabitha Oman on a recently demined hillside in Kosovo.

A look at the resume of entering class member Tabitha Oman provides a clear message of at least one key value in this young woman’s life: accomplishment. In the seven years since her graduation from the University of Colorado, she’s packed experience of a quality that many people don’t get in a lifetime.

Oman is a Washington, D.C., native whose parents still reside on Capitol Hill. After college, she came home and went to work for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee where, among other tasks, she managed information flow between party headquarters and 34 U.S. Senate campaigns.

She joined the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer trainee in January 1998 and, after six months of training, was sent to Port au Prince, Haiti, where she spent two years adjudicating visa applications, assisting U.S. citizens in distress, and reunifying families separated by political turmoil.

Then Oman came home again. This time, she was assigned to the State Department’s Executive Secretariat, where she served on the traveling staff of the Secretary of State. Now, as an officer in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Oman manages and distributes funds ($48 million in FY 2002) to assist refugees in the Balkans. She also coordinates humanitarian assistance to the region within the State Department, with other U.S. government agencies and with the United Nations and NGOs.

A student in the GW Law evening program, Oman obviously was attracted to GW because of the strong reputation of its international law program. At this early stage, she remains uncertain as to how she’ll integrate a law degree with her other interests. “I’m planning focus on international law, but as to whether it will be private international law or something like refugee or humanitarian law, I haven’t decided. The great thing about being a student again is having the chance to figure it out.”

A Founding Father

Tshering Wangchuk, a judge of Bhutan’s Royal Court of Justice, next to another founding father in the GW yard.

More than 75 students from other countries came to GW Law this year to obtain the LLM degree. Tshering Wangchuk, a judge of the Royal Court of Justice in Bhutan, is one of these remarkable students.

As a member of Bhutan’s judicial system, he is working with other high court officials to further develop the legal system there. What he will learn at GW Law will help to better serve the judiciary and the people of his country as they work to form a supreme court and write a formal constitution.

“The chief justice in Bhutan encouraged me to come here,” Wangchuk says. “He said the LLM will be one of the criteria needed by a justice in order to be appointed to the supreme court.”

The first in his family to study the law, Wangchuk has spent several years in Bhutan’s legal system. He obtained his LLB in India and is the most senior judicial official that has legal training outside of Bhutan. Along with studying in India, he has spent time learning the law in other countries in Europe.

Bhutan, a small country in the Himalayas bordered by India and Chinese Tibet, is a young country by modern standards, which ended a self-imposed isolation in 1960. The opening of Bhutan to the outside world has been coupled with unprecedented socio-economic development.

“We are doing in a short while what other countries take a century to do,” he says. “In order to keep pace with the country’s rapid development, the Bhutanese legal system, which had developed independently without any outside influence, requires consolidation and amendment of existing laws, enactment of new laws, and above all, development of its human resources.”

And so it is the human resources component that brings Wangchuk to study at GW Law. A friendly family man, he is humbled by the experience. It is his first trip to the United States. He is here for nine months to obtain his LLM degree while his wife, a school teacher, is at home caring for their two daughters—one newborn and one age 2. But the time away hopefully will help establish a better home for his children in the future.

“Bhutan, having started its development process late, found itself in a unique position to be able to learn from the mistakes made by other nations on their path to development,” Wangchuk adds. “The process of development pertaining to the judiciary has been similar. The policy of the judiciary in Bhutan has been to adopt good things from other systems wherever possible, while keeping the essence of the legal system traditional and Bhutanese in nature.”

Buddhism plays a strong role in Bhutan. Deeply influenced by the religion, the earlier laws evolved over the centuries, in keeping with the evolving culture of the people, and were always in tune with the needs of the time, he adds. “Buddhist legal concept, when related to the Western concept of law—is similar in many ways.”

The exposure to the U.S. legal system and common law has been extremely valuable, he adds. “We have just drafted a civil and criminal procedure code and we had some American lawyers helping us,” he says. “And the discovery process that you have before the trial—and things like plea bargaining. We have adopted this from the U.S. as well as other Western concepts such as habeas corpus and the doctrine of stare decisis.”

Wanghuk is eager to complete his studies and return to Bhutan. “It is my belief that the exposure, knowledge, and experience that I am gaining here will go a long way in making the judiciary of Bhutan an effective branch of social service and further augment the confidence of the Bhutanese people in the legal and judicial process.”

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