Women’s studies alumna uses liberal arts background to practice law

Ellie West
December 02, 2020

Penn State alumna Stephanie Koenig, a 2004 women’s studies and marketing graduate, uses her liberal arts education as the cornerstone of her legal practice. 

As a successful attorney for Fitzpatrick Lentz and Bubba in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Koenig primarily works with the firm’s real estate, land use and development and employment labor law groups. In this role, she frequently finds herself employing the critical thinking, creative thinking and advanced writing skills that were emphasized in her women’s studies degree more than anything else.

“My business degree was great, as it taught me the basics of accounting, spreadsheets, and economics,” she said, “but women’s studies is all about critical thinking and questioning.”

Koenig described how, when presented with a statement in class, she would be challenged to “divide the components of its face value” to figure out why and how it was occurring, asking questions at “every level of response.” Today, she follows a similar approach in her practice while working with clients, particularly in employment law. 

At Penn State, Koenig was a devoted member of the equestrian team and also served as the president of Penn State’s chapter of Iota, Iota, Iota (Triota), the national women’s studies honor society, her senior year. The faculty adviser of the society at the time was former faculty member Brian Jara, who Koenig described as one of her favorite faculty members.

“I recall that Brian's class emphasized the need to constantly question and to think on one's feet; two skills that have clearly helped me throughout my career,” she said. 

Her involvement in the honor society brought countless opportunities for personal development and networking. When Koenig was a sophomore, Triota presented its first distinguished alumni award to Mary Jo Romeo, who at the time was the publisher of Working Mother magazine. 

Upon further conversation at the awards dinner, Koenig described how Romeo handed her a business card, encouraging her to call if she ever had any questions. After taking the initiative to reach out, Koenig was then given the opportunity to shadow Romeo for a day at the magazine’s New York City office.

“Being 19 years old at the time, it was my first experience seeing professional women in the workplace. I really didn't have much exposure to what the workplace really felt like or how female executives handled themselves, but this experience allowed me to see their different styles of leading.” 

While Koenig knew she did not want to enter the publishing field, she still views her experience shadowing Romeo as a perfect example of the power of networking. “I recommend that students take advantage of networking, and when someone offers you their contact information, do not be afraid to reach out,” she said.  

As part of her women’s studies program, Koenig also participated in two summer internships, both in the legal field. Following her sophomore year, she spent a total of 12 weeks interning with three different firms and then went on to intern with the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia after her junior year. Both of these experiences eventually helped her obtain her very first role as an attorney with Tallman Hudders and Sorrentino in Allentown, Pennsylvania.   

Koenig is confident in her liberal arts education and its role in shaping her perspective today, as well as how she approaches her profession. The skills obtained from her women’s studies courses have ultimately been “invaluable” to the practice of law. 

  • Stephanie Koenig headshot
    IMAGE: Provided by Stephanie Koenig

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Last Updated December 02, 2020