Crammed into a packed, outdoor amphitheater, sitting between centenarians and college students alike, I found my future. Two and a half years ago, based on my passion for my high school’s Mock Trial team, my mother took me to see an interview with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Twenty minutes into hearing Justice O’Connor detail her journey to become the first female justice on the nation’s highest court, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I also discovered, however, how much I wanted to be a Gender and Women’s Studies major. And although I did not know it at the time, my GWS degree would lead me to the very place Justice O’Connor worked for almost 25 years: the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sitting in the audience, I was moved by Justice O’Connor’s determination. Lawyers and judges told Justice O’Connor women could not attend law school. In response, she went to Stanford Law School and won awards for her publications as Editor-in-Chief of the law review. When she was told the only job she could get in a law firm was as a secretary, she founded her own firm—and worked her way all the way to the Supreme Court. In retirement, she founded a website, iCivics, which uses games to teach middle school students about the government and has crusaded for the abolishment of the elected judiciary system. In short, throughout her life, Justice O’Connor has proven that despite obstacles and close-mindedness, women can achieve anything to which they aspire.
Stories of remarkable women like Justice O’Connor have inspired me to fight for women’s equality. They have inspired me to declare a major that empowers men and women alike and campaigns for justice and equality. This semester, with the help, guidance, and support of some amazing GWS professors, I took a big step toward my legal future by applying for, and later securing, a position as the Visitor Programs Intern at the Supreme Court of the United States.
For the past two months, I have been studying a small library of books, news articles, and legal briefs to prepare for visitor inquiries. During the next four months, I will use that research and knowledge to lead tours of the Court, develop new presentations, and share the history of the institution with more than 200 people at a time inside the nation’s most famous courthouse. In short, I will be pushed far outside of my comfort zone. Luckily, I feel prepared. After all, I have a broad base of skills from my GWS studies.
I was selected for my internship out of a national pool of bright, talented applicants. In my application, I wrote an essay about gender inequality in America. The essay discussed my desire to make a difference, however small, in enacting the words written on the entrance to the Supreme Court: “Equal Justice under Law.” I talked about my Villanova courses in feminist theory and the study of intersectional oppressions and prejudices. While I am sure there were many factors in my selection, I know it is not an exaggeration to say I would not have been chosen for my dream internship had it not been for my ability to differentiate myself as a GWS major.
This summer, I will lead guests through the courtroom, the on-site history exhibitions, and, most meaningfully to me, a retrospective on Sandra Day O’Connor. Just as Justice O’Connor inspired me, I look forward to sharing her story and message with others, so they too can see the power of perseverance and the importance of justice.