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Student Profile: Diamond Johnson

Hands-on career preparation, attained through internships and supplementary training programs, has emerged as an increasingly important factor for many college students. In highly competitive fields, this real-world experience enables graduates to distinguish themselves and reach new levels of success. Recognizing this, many Aquinas students are taking the initiative to find such opportunities - take Diamond L. Johnson, a senior communication major who participated in the Widener School of Law’s Jurist Academy during the summer of 2013, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

After first earning an Associate of Liberal Arts from Oakland Community College, Johnson transferred to Aquinas College in 2012. When describing what drew her to the school, she emphasized its warm and friendly atmosphere as a decisive factor. “I scheduled a campus visit and met with an ambassador,” Johnson said. “She gave me a tour of the school, and I absolutely fell in love with the campus. It was the welcoming and personal feeling that came from everyone I met - I love this place! There was something here that just made me feel at home.”

Like many students, Johnson commutes to Aquinas - albeit under somewhat non-traditional circumstances. Whereas most commuter students live in western Michigan, Johnson makes a weekly two-hour trek from Livonia to Grand Rapids for classes. Yet as an effect of this decision, Johnson said that she has taken advantage of this time alone to reflect and deepen her prayer life. "In transferring to a great school, driving from Livonia to school once a week for my classes, it definitely strengthened and renewed my relationship with God, something initially I wasn't expecting!”

Johnson plans to attend law school after graduating from Aquinas, and used the summer to become better prepared. She heard about the Jurist Academy in Pennsylvania, a program through Widener Law that seeks to increase participation of underrepresented minority groups in law school. The two-week June program fit well with Johnson’s schedule, and she applied with guidance from Sharon Smith, the Director of Career Services at Aquinas. “I was initially waitlisted,” Johnson said. “Then the director of the [Jurist] program called, offering me one of ten spots from a pool of 100 applicants - they were very selective."

The Jurist Academy was conducted similarly to a law school, giving students a better feel for their potential careers. Participants had three classes each day throughout the program, were given a mock LSAT exam, and had many opportunities to discuss aspects of law school and practice with lawyers in fields such as public interest, environmental litigation, nonprofits, and government.

Reflecting on her experience, and the program’s lasting influence, Johnson believed that she was given a new perspective on law, and her decision to pursue it as a career has been solidified. "I received an abundance of information,” she said. “It was very helpful to my search, especially looking at law school, knowing what to look for, which schools are ideal for me, and how I can become the ideal candidate. I went in wanting to be a lawyer, particularly in public interest, but I learned there are more opportunities in different areas of law than I had actually thought about."