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‘Invaluable’: Lycoming College students meet U.S. Supreme Court Justice

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Lycoming College students enrolled in Political Science 201, “Inside the U.S. Supreme Court,” received an education like no other as the class traveled to the Supreme Court twice this semester — once to attend oral arguments for the case McIntosh v. United States, and again for a private meeting with the bench’s newest addition, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Led by Susan Achury, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at Lycoming College, the students spent the semester taking an in-depth look at the U.S. Supreme Court, how it works and its impact on society, according to a news release from the college.

“In the course, students develop critical insights of the role of the court in our democracy by examining real cases and exploring different theories that explain how judges make decisions,” the release said. “The visit with Justice Jackson, as well as meetings and job-shadowing experiences with a variety of different types of lawyers in the Washington, D.C., area, provided Lycoming students with the opportunities to get advice on law school and legal careers from a diverse set of perspectives.”

Topics of discussion with Jackson and others ranged from aligning values with professional responsibilities to whether students should take a gap year, as well as working for the government as opposed to private practices, different types of law, work-life balance and more. Students were also able to address their preconceptions of lawyers by seeing the law in action.

“I have had the chance to learn more about the U.S. Supreme Court’s complexities this semester, including its function, significance and the processes involved in producing judicial decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court course has provided me with a firsthand perspective on the challenges and opportunities that professionals in this industry encounter, which led to an enhanced experience,” said Erika Puga ’27, political science major and legal studies minor, in the press release.

Senior Emily Wolfgang, political science major and criminal justice and criminology minor, said the course helped her think more clearly about her future legal career and its challenges as she prepares to attend Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Fall 2024.

“It was remarkable how students connected class discussions with their experiences meeting the first African American woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson. It offered invaluable insights into the diverse pathways within the legal profession and inspired students to envision their futures in law,” said Achury in the press release. “During the meeting, students had the opportunity to ask Justice Jackson about the current challenges aspiring law students face, and her response was simple yet powerful: ‘Just go.’ Her answer emphasized the significance of representation and diversity in the legal profession. This encounter left our students enthusiastic about pursuing a career in law.”

Prior to meeting with Jackson, the class visited the Supreme Court to sit in on oral arguments for McIntosh v. United States. The case, which argued whether a district court can enter a criminal forfeiture order when the time limit specified in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure has already passed, allowed the students to see everything from the decorum and protocol of the courtroom to how each individual justice interacted with counsel, the staff of the court and each other, the release said.

Alumna Nicole Calella ’17, special agent at the Supreme Court of the United States, facilitated the experience for the class.

“The once-in-a-lifetime experience included a tour of the National Mall and networking opportunities with area alumni, who shared their experiences living and working in law and public policy in the nation’s capital,” the news release stated.



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