Class of 2015 brings an array of experiences to Penn State Law

The newest group of Penn State Law students arrived on campus, bringing an array of life experiences and professional perspectives to the study of law. Comprised of 165 students ages 20 to 44, the juris doctor Class of 2015 includes people who have worked, volunteered, or studied in 19 countries and speakers of Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, Arabic, Korean, and Chinese. The class includes eight students who hold master's degrees in public policy, aerospace and mechanical engineering, education, forensic psychology and other fields. (View Orientation slideshow on Facebook

A couple of the students who traveled interesting paths before being admitted to Penn State Law include a registered nurse and another student who was homeless during part of her childhood.

“This is an amazing group and we couldn’t be happier to welcome all of them,” said Amanda DiPolvere, dean of admissions and financial aid at Penn State Law, who combed through thousands of applications.

Members of the class earned a median undergraduate GPA of 3.56 and a median LSAT score of 159. They've worked in oil, finance, education, mental health, tourism, the arts, real estate, sports, labor, brewing, law enforcement, law firms of all kinds, administrative agencies, legislative offices (in the U.S. and abroad), executive offices, and all levels of government. Four branches of the U.S. military are represented.

Registered nurse Amanda Gavin chose to attend law school so that she could help people in a different way. A medical-surgical nurse at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.V., she enjoyed working with veterans and their families. However, the help she could provide went only so far. When her patients had family law problems, housing issues, or trouble with government benefits, she could not do much to help. 

“My limitations as a nurse became increasingly frustrating,” she said. “I have always tried to be an advocate for my patients, but I feel that as a lawyer I will truly be able to be the advocate that I've always wanted to be.”

Classmate Nicole Suissa beat long odds to make it to law school. A first-generation college student, she remembers wanting to be a lawyer for as long as she could remember. During Suissa’s childhood she and her mother spent several years in homeless shelters in New York City. As a freshman at the University of Hartford, she was unable to come up with $5,000 to cover the remainder of her tuition. Her situation garnered national attention in February 2009 when her story made it to CNN and to the attention of attorney J. Edward Bell III of Bell Legal Group in South Carolina. Bell stepped in to pay for the remainder of Suissa’s college education, allowing her to complete her degree with honors this year. He also hired her to work in his law firm. When it was time to choose a law school, Suissa wanted a school that offered a strong international law component. 

“Lots of schools had international programs that sounded intriguing, but Penn State was unique in offering a joint degree and in having its own international affairs program, and I liked that,” she said. Suissa spent part of her summer supervising students on a trip to Israel and researched her undergraduate honors thesis in Morocco. Suissa explained that she also was drawn to the small class sizes and the warm welcome she received from staff members during the admissions process.

“Ms. Suissa and Ms. Gavin are just two of the distinguished students that we’ve gotten to know through the admissions process, and we look forward to the faculty and student body getting to know their new colleagues,” said DiPolvere.

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated July 22, 2015