SJC Internship Paves Way to Legal Career
March 5, 2018 | By Eve Tolpa
For Jay Woodward, an Ariel Internship led directly to a job.
The 2017 St. John’s College graduate spent last summer at New Mexico Appleseed, a nonprofit legal organization in Santa Fe. He began as an intern and soon landed a part-time position.
The experience reinforced his desire to work in the legal system, an area that has fascinated him since before he came to St. John’s.
As part of his internship, Woodward researched the McKinney-Vento Act, federal legislation that allots money to state school districts for the purposes of identifying and enrolling homeless students. Woodward was asked to contact school districts and conduct surveys on homeless student enrollment as part of an effort to track program outcomes.
By focusing on improving the lives of low-income and underserved populations through systemic change, New Mexico Appleseed “address(es) these issues from the highest levels, where they can have the highest impact,” he says.
As Woodward noted in his report, the internship “complemented my education ... where I had come to understand the ‘why’ of the law, but not the ‘how.’”
The process made Woodward aware of just how many transferrable skills he had acquired at St. John’s.
The college “presented me with tremendous hurdles very frequently, and often with little time to complete them.” Because he was accustomed to the Program’s heavy workload, Woodward found that reading a 12-page legal brief was “like a walk in the park.”
Woodward maintains his part-time position today. He also works as a part-time administrative assistant in St. John’s Office of Personal and Professional Development. It’s from that vantage point that he now views the opportunities that were laid out before him, one central factor being the range of financial sources that support internships and fellowships.
Though funds are sometimes earmarked for specific fields, “there is also a tremendous amount of money available for whatever the student is interested in.” He encourages all students to take advantage of all that the college offers.
“Ariel Internships and Pathways Fellowships are the strongest tools we have,” he says. “St. John’s isn’t just about books. It can also be about preparing yourself professionally.”
Woodward’s interest in the law also led him to study Eastern Classics at the St. John’s Graduate Institute, where he has been reflecting on cultural and historical approaches to legal issues.
“Law in Western society is a codified edifice,” he says. “It's a book, a tome. It has very particular rules. Classical Eastern society says, ‘Don’t try to govern everybody by the same style.’ Self-reflection leads to a more harmonious society.”
Woodward plans to attend law school after he graduates. There’s no doubt in his mind that his internship played a big role in solidifying his goals. His time at New Mexico Appleseed “was absolutely a defining point for my post–St. John’s career. Without that Ariel Internship, I would almost certainly not have that (part-time) position.”
Woodward also knows his experience is not unique.
“Many of my co-graduates who are currently in stable career positions have those positions due to connections they made from Ariel Internships and Pathways Fellowships,” he says.
If it were up to Woodward, student involvement in programs offered by the Office of Personal and Professional Development would be mandatory.
“Motivated students will find everything they need to succeed,” he says. “What they want to be doing, we can help them do it.”