Former HR and Labor Relations Manager Charlotte, North Carolina
Education: B.S. in Business Management, University of South Carolina Master of Human Resources, University of South Carolina
Why did you decide to pursue an online J.D. degree? I have been looking for a feasible way to get my Juris Doctor for the past 10 years. I moved all over the country with my job, and it was impossible to find a law school that was available nights and/or weekends to accommodate someone with a full-time job. Then, in 2016, I was in a tragic car accident that left me paralyzed from the rib cage down and without the ability to use my hands. Over the next two years, I had five surgeries, excruciating physical therapy and ongoing issues fighting insurance companies, government agencies and the management of the skilled nursing facility I was forced to live in. I saw some of the appalling treatment aimed at those who wouldn’t or couldn’t speak up for themselves. At that point, I knew what I had to do. I had to be their voice.
There are no residential law school programs in Charlotte, North Carolina, anymore. Based on my physical needs at that point, I knew relocating to attend school was not going to be an option. I was very leery of the entire concept of an online law degree because I felt that it would not be able to provide the core components of human interaction and debate.
The biggest reason I picked University of Dayton’s online J.D. was because it was a brand-new program, and we have had the unique opportunity to help mold this program into something truly extraordinary. Personally, I have accomplished a lot through trial and error. I am new to having a severe physical disability and was not sure what accommodations I would need or even what was available, but my professors have been right there with me, helping me figure it out along the way.
The University has invested a lot of time and money into this hybrid J.D. program, and it shows. Of the few universities in the country that are American Bar Association–approved for a hybrid-style learning platform, University of Dayton School of Law has the most sophisticated, professional asynchronous material. All the lectures are professionally produced. The hybrid approach to law school was the only one that offered the flexibility to get a legal education, while also not sacrificing quality. One of my biggest concerns was missing the opportunity to bond with my classmates that an in-person residential structure can provide. But I am truly blessed to have the classmates that I do, and I feel that I know them all on a personal and a professional level. I cannot wait to see the difference that the University of Dayton inaugural hybrid class of 2023 will make in this world!
Where do you think the cohesiveness of your cohort comes from? It started a week after classes began, when somebody created a WhatsApp chat room so we could all kind of figure this out. From then on, we all talked every single day. It’s kind of forced us to communicate in a different way, that includes the personal side of life along with the school stuff. It’s a very different culture but a very cool one, because the world is drifting toward a more digital culture anyway. We still get this fusion of ideas and personalities, all of that coming out of a computer.
Can you talk a little bit about how the Socratic method is employed in the online format? It is the Socratic method, elevated, because of the way the faculty are using it. When we review the asynchronous assignments, they ask you questions about every single case, which in a residential class you’re never going to get. They’re going to pick one person and they’re going to drill that one person, but now it’s like they’re drilling all of us.
That’s the neatest thing to me: After we submit the asynchronous work, the professor can see where the gaps are in what we understand and what we don’t, and they tailor their class towards those gaps. So not only is the Socratic method there, it’s the Socratic method where you need it.
Can you tell us about your professors and what they bring to the classroom? My torts professor, Professor Shaw, is extremely good. We were studying for our final, and we were in a study group with three or four of us on Zoom — it was 11:30 p.m., and we were just stuck debating what the elements of the specific claim were. So we just forwarded her an email and said hey, can we discuss this tomorrow, and she just pops in the Zoom conference room from her house right then. I mean, who does that? I tell that story to everybody because it’s unreal: 11:30 p.m. and my law professor is in my study group teaching us because she cares.
Would you recommend the University of Dayton’s Online Hybrid J.D. program to others and why? One hundred percent yes, for a few reasons. One is the attitude of the teachers and the staff. There is not a person at that university who will not bend over backwards to make sure you succeed if you’re willing to put in the work. The other biggest piece is they test you, and I don’t mean like with an actual test. They try you hard, it’s not easy, but I like that. The material is as tangible as it would be if we were in the residential class. We’re not missing anything. To me, we’re gaining that much more because of the access to the professors, because of the access to each other.