Mel, a native of Springfield, Missouri, is the Vice-President of the Women's Law Association (WLA) and the Associate-Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Dispute Resolution.
What made you decide to come to law school?
My family is a family of doctors and nurses, but they always told me that I had the personality for the legal profession. At the time, I thought that was an underhanded insult; but I've realized that they were right. This was evident to me when we would go on medical mission trips to Nicaragua. My family was willing and able to give direct services by providing medicine. But, the problems are much larger than medical issues. The people don't have the resources they need to live well; they have no social security to support them, no pension for old age, and it made me question what other non-medical services we could provide. These social inequities made me wonder how legal and government assistance programs, like we have and often take for granted in the U.S. could help change the life of Nicaraguans. These observations fueled my desire to go to law school.
How did you feel when you got to law school?
When I first arrived, it was a smooth transition because I had already been at Mizzou for four years and Mizzou is like family to me. Then law school really started. It became a little overwhelming. But, after finals first semester, things calmed down. You cannot escape that it is law school. It's difficult, but it's not impossible. It's challenging in a good way. And, the law school still has aspects of Mizzou community that I knew in undergrad. The faculty and staff are approachable and the people are helpful. I believe that what you get from the experience is what you put into it.
What has been your most fulfilling experience so far at law school?
My involvement in WLA's annual charity auction has been the one of the most fulfilling experiences. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work—contacting sponsors and businesses to provide items for the silent auction; planning auction themes and fundraisers, decorating the venue, were just some of the planning activities. The nice thing about being involved in an organization like the Women's Law Association is that the members truly care; it's not just money that we're raising for a faceless charity. We volunteer at these charities and make connections with the people in Mid-Missouri. It's a really rewarding experience, and I'm so grateful for everyone who makes it such a success each year.
Another very fulfilling experience has been serving as the Associate-Editor-in-Chief for the JDR because I have been intimately involved in planning this year's symposium which brought together some of the most renowned international commercial arbitrators and litigators. It was very energizing and fun to work with all of the journal's associates who are so great and work so hard.
What do you plan to do with your law degree?
I plan to pursue alternative dispute resolution because of the strong dispute resolution program at Mizzou. I have had the fortune of serving on the editorial board for the Journal of Dispute Resolution. And, I have truly enjoyed my interactions with Dean Bailey, Dean Gely, Professor Strong, and Professor Reuben. I am also interested in health care law because of my family background and experiences. I can see how health care and law intersect.
Those mission trips have inspired me and I also want to give back and address the needs of the Nicaraguan community through Project HOPE and my church. I plan to continue to participate on mission trips but would like to provide alternative dispute resolution services or services related to health care law.