Penn State Law student finds success through independent study program

October 09, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Amber Morris, a third-year student at Penn State Law at University Park, knew that she wanted to focus on insurance law during her law school career. In order to dive deep into that field, Morris decided to take on a semester of independent study in the second semester of her second year. Now, she is poised to become a published law student.

Amber Morris | Penn State Law

Amber Morris, third-year student at Penn State Law in University Park

IMAGE: Penn State

At Penn State Law, independent study is open to students looking for a way to explore their passions. The main project of the independent study is to write a paper; every 10, single-spaced pages is worth one course credit. The student selects the professor that is the best fit for their interest and works under them to gain knowledge and expertise.

Morris selected Professor of Practice Christopher French, a leading insurance law expert, and under his tutelage, wrote a 35-page paper on the topic of physician-assisted suicide and life insurance benefits. Her own personal experiences drove her interest in the topic that is being analyzed nationally. As she was writing, several states had proposed or passed legislation on the subject. Morris wrote in favor of life insurance benefits being offered to the families of individuals choosing physician-assisted suicide.

After the completion of the independent study course, Morris decided to attempt to get her paper published. After researching appropriate outlets and submitting her work to multiple publishers, the Montana Law Review notified her that it would like to publish the piece in its summer 2020 edition, which will solely focus on physician aid in dying. In Montana, physician-assisted death has been legal since its State Supreme Court ruled as such in 2009. There are currently several proposed bills in that state to attempt to ban assisted dying.

According to French, “Amber came up with an interesting idea and then worked very hard to research and write an independent study paper to explore the topic. She then did the additional work it takes to convert an independent study paper into a publishable article. Her work ethic and the finished product are both very impressive.”

Morris credits the independent study option with opening the door to getting published in an outside journal as a student, a rare and exceptional feat.

“Independent study is a lot of work but getting the chance to work with experts and improve my writing skills was so worth it,” said Morris. “I would highly recommend it to other students, especially as the professors here are always so willing to help, and really do have an open-door policy.”

Morris plans to pursue a career in insurance litigation or legislative affairs following law school.

Last Updated October 18, 2019