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February 19, 2001

Opening your eyes to service

Jill Uiberall is a third-year law student.

I entered law school as I have begun most new experiences—bright-eyed and ready to take it on, without realizing just how much it would affect me.

I had heard the horror stories, read the books and seen the movies. Orientation began with a scene right out of The Paper Chase: more than 200 nervous and excited students in a large auditorium with a lone professor in a coat and tie standing before us. I fully expected to hear the standard statement, “Look to your left and look to your right; those seats will be empty after the first semester.” To my amazement, the first words out of the professor’s mouth were, “Your legal career begins today.”

The faculty and staff of Emory School of Law had no intention of merely educating the 200 students sitting in Tull Auditorium that day. Rather, in addition to teaching us the law, the faculty and staff acted as positive role models, encouraging us to become active participants and leaders in our community. They made it very clear that we were no longer simply students—we were professionals, who must give back to the community in order for it to flourish.

The concept of giving back to my community was nothing new to me. Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., I was surrounded by a closeknit community filled with individuals, who continually gave their time, love and support to others. My parents not only preached the importance of helping others and being a leader, they (more importantly) led by example. They showed their commitment to their community through their various roles within United Way, our synagogue, the Community Foundation, Leadership Memphis and many others. My parents’ values, demonstrated by their positive community involvement, have been driving forces influencing my decisions in life to help others.

While attending a student organization meeting shortly after my arrival at law school, I met a third-year law student who told me that, at a party the year before, she believed a sedative known as the “date rape” drug had been slipped into her drink. The experience prompted her to research Georgia’s rape laws and look for solutions to the outdated code. She and I joined forces with a third law student, and a short time later we began drafting what we hoped would become Georgia’s new rape laws.

Professors and staff willingly made themselves available to us outside the classroom. Their guidance was essential and eventually led us to other activists, legislators and organizations in the community.

After many drafts and much editing and coalition building, the bill was brought before last year’s legislative session. It achieved a unanimous victory in the Senate but was narrowly defeated in the House during the final hours of the session, making it necessary to reintroduce the bill (House Bill 634) before the current legislative term.

It has been amazing to follow a bill on its way to becoming a law, but through this experience I have learned so much more than merely the procedural aspects of lawmaking. As a participant in the Georgia Women’s Assembly and having been introduced to many of the amazing women’s organizations in Georgia, I have become aware of a network that is remarkable in size and influence. I’ve also learned the endless possibilities that await someone who has motivation and enthusiasm.

Although it is my hope that this bill will pass, if it fails, our voices will still have been heard and will serve as a stepping stone for the next attempt, just as those before us paved our way.

Becoming active in the community does not have to be extremely time consuming or difficult.

Choosing a cause or an activity that evokes passion and excitement is fundamental. Imagination and enthusiasm are the keys to making a lasting contribution. One phone call or e-mail is all that is necessary to begin the succession of doors that will continue to open.

Opportunities for involvement are continually present throughout the Emory community. During the month of February, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women Student Concerns Committee is holding a used cell phone collection drive. The phones and parts (accepted in any condition) will be refurbished and distributed to victims of domestic violence through the national “Call to Protect” program. All Call to Protect phones will be preprogrammed to dial 911 and one or two non-emergency numbers (i.e., domestic violence shelters). Collection sites are located throughout campus including, the Women’s Center, the law school and the Administration Building, and also at Oxford. The simple act of spreading the word and gathering used phones can help save thousands of lives.

Reflecting upon the past three years, I realize that the many experiences I have encountered have come before me in a variety of ways: by talking to other students, by others approaching me, by seeking out opportunities, and, largely, by being in the right place at the right time.

My expectation for law school was simple—to become a well-educated attorney. But this expectation was far too narrow to account for the incredible opportunities made available to me through students, faculty and staff, as well as through the Atlanta community. Perhaps what I have realized most is that the arms of the community are open; we, as students, must simply walk into them.



Back to Emory Report Feb. 19, 2001