MLaw's Class of 2021 - ready to make a difference

By Kristy Demas

“Sometimes eight hours in the jungle watching a sloth resting could be a bit of a drag, so to stay entertained I would have one earbud in to listen to podcasts and recordings of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, and one ear free to listen for snakes, jaguars, and other predators,” said Everett Secor of his time with the Sloth Institute of Costa Rica.

So what does a sloth technician have in common with a press manager for the 2014 Asian Para Games; a writer for Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer; and an aide to Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan?

All are part of Michigan Law’s incoming 1Ls — a class that stands out in myriad ways, according to Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean, who says that this year’s high volume of students — 362 — is matched by their high quality.

These students have a median LSAT score of 169 and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.77 — which makes this year’s LSAT/GPA combination the Law School’s second highest ever.

On top of their academic excellence, 11 were Fulbright Scholars, nine taught for Teach For America, six served in the U.S. military, three were in the Peace Corps, and 11 percent have advanced degrees.

A number of students took time off before coming to Michigan Law.

Some, like Jennifer Huseby, got insight into the legal field by working as a receptionist at a law firm, but her most unusual job was as a press manager for the 2014 Paralympic Asian Games in
Incheon, South Korea.

The job, she said, “changed how I perceived people with disabilities. The Paralympic Asian Games were filled with athletes I had an absolute blast connecting to, who told me of the societal adversities they had overcome in order to get there.

“It showed me that both my country and I need a lot of work when it comes to societal perspectives on these issues, which further influenced my desire to study law and find my answer to the question: How can I make things better?”

Another stand-out experience for Huseby is being part of Michigan Law’s first class in which women comprise more than half of the student body — 53 percent to be exact. Men make up 47 percent while .5 percent identify as neither gender.

Zearfoss is proud of the diversity of this year’s 1Ls. Nearly 30 percent are racial minorities, 16.5 percent identify as LGBTQ, more than 10 percent experienced significant socioeconomic disadvantage prior to college, and 11.5 percent are first-generation college degree recipients.

Geographically, 45 states and 10 countries are represented, including Colombia, Germany, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iraq, and Korea.

Students also come from 159 undergraduate institutions, with Michigan at the top of the list. STEM majors account for 16 percent of undergraduate degrees.

Others include political science, international studies, English, philosophy, and business administration.

While Secor, who monitored sloths in the jungle as part of the Sloth Institute’s conservation efforts, was always interested in the law, he was actually an oboe performance major before switching to English.

“Majoring in English allowed me to explore topics ranging from Scottish fiction to coal energy production to anti-fascist subversive art,” he said. “Similarly, law felt like the most effective way to apply my skills in a way that made a difference for the very wide range of passions and interests I have, particularly in the areas of human rights, environmental protections, and science-based public policy.”

Secor committed to Michigan without ever visiting Ann Arbor, basing his decision on advice from Michigan Law alumni, friends who attended U-M as undergrads, and the School’s reputation — especially its environmental, refugee, and international law programs.

“The level of open communication from the admissions team gave me confidence in my choice,” he said. “Every moment since I’ve arrived on campus has confirmed that decision.”