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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Meet Emily Powers, Dual Degree in Peace and law student

Written by Kroc School

Emily Powers is a current student at the Joan B. Kroc School and the University of San Diego School of Law who has finished her first year of law school and is currently in her second semester of the Master’s of Peace and Justice program. Originally from Clarion, Pennsylvania, she received her undergraduate degree in political science with a focus on international relations from West Chester University in Pennsylvania in 2018. While at West Chester University, Emily started a student organization called Undivided which brought together organizations on campus focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion to spark conversations around intersectionality and collaboration. Passionate about issues such as criminal justice, prison reform, children’s advocacy, and housing equity, it led her to the University of San Diego's (USD) dual degree program to receive a Juris Doctor degree and a Master’s in Peace and Justice (MAPJ) — a unique Peace & Law degree available only through a partnership between the Kroc School and USD School of Law.

Emily Powers, MA in Peace and Justice and JD candidate

How do both of these programs complement each other? 

During her first year of law school, Emily was very intrigued with the case and statutory laws she studied and how these policies affect racial, gender, and economic justice. Drawn to the USD School of Law because it has children’s advocacy and criminal justice concentration programs, as well as its Peace and Law Dual Degree with the Kroc School. After finishing her first year of law school, she was eager to use the MAPJ program to apply the lens of peacebuilding to her law school studies.“After a year of law school, I was really looking for more reflection on policies/laws and how they affect people. The Kroc School provided a social justice and progress-focused community that I wanted to be a part of.”

Aside from studying the law and peacebuilding, Emily interns at a legal clinic run by the Legal Aid Society of San Diego and primarily works on helping people being evicted from their homes. This work has given her a better understanding of the positive and negative implications surrounding landlord and tenant laws in San Diego. Emily found that “this experience showed me that I really want to be in a space where we are not just learning what the law is but if it is good or bad and how can it be better? How can it change to help more people?” While working for the Alliance for Children’s Rights in Los Angeles, she provided legal support for caregivers in the Los Angeles foster system. Specifically, her work supported advocacy efforts to ensure caregivers were receiving the proper government funding necessary to support children with significant physical and mental health needs. At the law school, Emily works as a research assistant for Professor Orly Lobel and has specifically researched the intersection of law, technology, and gender equity. She is also an associate member of the Journal of Climate and Energy Law. She has participated in moot court competitions and is also a board member of the Pro Bono Legal Advocates student organization. 

Emily has found that after her first semester in the MAPJ program, she has been able to use her knowledge about laws and policies surrounding social justice issues to reflect on the legal system to discover how the government is working to facilitate peacebuilding or how these policies exacerbate violence and inequality.

Making the most of her time in the MAPJ program

Emily has found a great sense of community within the Kroc School that has allowed her to foster meaningful relationships with both her fellow students and professors. Emily has found that the relationships she has built with other students during her first year in the MAPJ program have been priceless. She feels that the school provides space for learning from other students and having deep discussions,  especially outside of the classroom. Emily also enjoys the structure of her courses and that the professors challenge students to “take ideas out for a walk” and to have empathy when listening to diverse perspectives. In the Spring of 2022, she participated in the Washington D.C. Practicum course with Professor Philip Gamaghelyan and the Kroc School’s visiting scholars. This course allowed her to see the coursework of the MAPJ program in action and gave her an experience that was “exactly what she came to the Kroc school for.”  Emily has also made a point to stay up to date with all of the events and opportunities that are held within the Kroc School.

Tips for prospective students considering the dual degree program

Having completed the first year of her law degree and finishing up her first year in the MAPJ program, Emily has only positive things to say about her experience. While Emily acknowledges that the workload for both programs can be heavy at times and there are financial and personal obligations to consider when committing to a four-year program, she has found that the Kroc School community provides a great support system, while being able to study in one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Emily has found that the MAPJ program compliments her studies at the law school and has given her a more holistic approach to studying law through the lens of

Kroc School

About the Author

Kroc School

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies' mission is to equip and empower innovative changemakers to shape more peaceful and just societies.