For graduates of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, this week marks the last time they'll pull an all-nighter at the Ross-Blakley Library or take a final in Armstrong Hall at Arizona State University.
It's the last time they'll stare bleary-eyed at their laptops in the Steptoe & Johnson Rotunda, chug coffee at The Sidebar Café or gather with fellow students in a breezy courtyard on the law school campus.
But this has also been a year of firsts for the 189 members of the Class of 2007, for which commencement is planned on Friday, May 11, at Gammage Auditorium. The program, featuring Gov. Janet Napolitano delivering the convocation address, is at 3 p.m.
Graduate Cesely Hopper, the first in her family to finish college, was chosen by her classmates as the student convocation speaker. She plans to talk about the need for Arizona's legal profession to become more diverse, in race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background.
"It was a culture shock for me, moving from California to Arizona, and growing up where I did," said Hopper, 27, an African American from Inglewood, Calif.
So much so that Hopper, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, considered leaving the law school after her first semester.
"Getting through those first courses was very difficult because it's just a different style of learning," she said.
Hopper thanked Professor Chad Noreuil for teaching her the art of legal writing, Professor Myles Lynk for his support, and Tammy Vavra, the College's assistant registrar, for help with registration and friendship, among others.
Hopper eventually ended up immersing herself in law-school activities, serving as vice president of the John P. Morris Black Law Students Association, as the 3L representative to the College's Student Bar Association, and as the college's ABA Student Representative. Her devotion to the law was solidified this semester when she enrolled in the Public Defender Clinic and worked with clients of the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office.
"You get to see how the law works beyond the books and get experience from seasoned attorneys," said Hopper, who has accepted a job in the Clark County Public's Defender's Office in Las Vegas, Nev.
Other notable firsts:
Among the class's 178 candidates for Juris Doctor degrees is the College's first M.D.-J.D. student, Brian Wilhelmi. He's completed the law school requirements of a unique collaboration between the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and Mayo Medical School. Wilhelmi, who previously finished two years of medical school, now will return there, and after two more years of study, he'll be able to practice both law and medicine.
"Being the first M.D.-J.D. candidate means that people are constantly wondering why one person would pursue so much education," he said. "After pursuing both degrees I can answer them confidently that the effect it has had on my own life has been vibrant. The complex world existing at the intersection of law, medicine, and business is driven by forces such as empathy and justice just as much as it is by the bottom line. However, without a clear understanding of all three of these forces, health care bears little chance of aligning them all for true solutions for society."
Wilhelmi's goal is to become a leader in fields involving emerging health care technology in medicine, law and business.
The Class of 2007 is the first to graduate after spending a full year under the school's new name. It was renamed for retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in April 2006, and an official ceremony was held last November. The renaming was a first in and of itself.
"The College of Law is proud to bear the name of Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court," said Dean Patricia White. "It is the first law school named for a contemporary woman, and like its namesake, strives for the talent and courage to set a new path for law and legal education in the United States."
Steven W. Bott, the first candidate in the College's LL.M. in Tribal Policy, Law, and Government, will graduate Friday. This Master of Laws program gives students who already have their law degrees insight into the exploding field of Indian law through the College's renowned Indian Legal Program.
Bott, who is the director of university real estate development for ASU, said he had always been interested in Indian law, but it wasn't widely taught when he went to law school. He came to work for the university just as the law school started the LL.M. program.
"It was a case when desire meets timing and opportunity," he said.
Bott said he also was motivated by interactions the university has with Native nations where land uses intersect. "As a government entity, we have interaction with tribes, particularly at the Polytechnic campus."
Bott said he expects to stay with ASU, and also use his new knowledge in pro bono and consulting work with tribes.
"When I retire, I foresee myself doing economic development work with tribes," he said. "It's a specialty area that I see really growing, especially around Phoenix."
The College also is graduating its first group of candidates for the Master of Legal Studies: Tony Barrasso, Paul Burch, Edward Kargbo, Ramon Muro and Cristina Wong. The M.L.S. is a graduate degree for individuals who don't want to practice law, but desire a basic familiarity with law, legal thought and the legal process.
Barrasso has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and psychology and a master's degree in public administration. He believes the M.L.S. will help him land a job with the FBI or other federal law enforcement agency.
"I didn't have to go through the entire three years (of law school) to get the required knowledge that agencies are looking for," said Barrasso, noting he was able to take criminal and international law courses, but avoid the non-applicable lessons in tax and property law.
Several awards will be made during commencement, including:
Graduating Summa Cum Laude are Crandell, Gamble, Betsy Lamm, Tolman, Vincent and Weeks. Magna Cum Laude graduates are Sarah Anchors, Heather Boysel, Megan Hardman, Charitie Hartsig, Amanda Hines, Lightner, William Luzader III, Jodi Meyers, Nigro, Christian Olson, Rowan Smith, Phillip Visnansky, Weber and Wilhelmi.
At the convocation program, Hopper will present the Outstanding Teaching Award to Professor Gary Marchant, the Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Marchant, who joined the faculty in 1999, also is executive director of the College's Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology and a professor of Life Sciences at ASU.