Dual degrees open far-reaching possibilities for Tulane Law alumni: Part one

Law students (and graduates) often cite the JD degree’s breadth as one of its top draws. You can study criminal and corporate law in the same semester, while spending your free time representing indigent clients in a law clinic and pursuing scholarly writing for a legal journal. Law school provides a flexibility and diversity of studies unlike other graduate programs.

But Tulane’s dual-degree program allows students to stretch their studies and career paths further. In four years, students can earn two degrees: a JD combined with another graduate degree from a wide range of areas, including business, accounting, healthcare administration, public health, international development, Latin American studies and social work.

The extra year of school pays off: Tulane’s dual-degree grads finish on track to be leaders in their fields, with strengthened expertise, extensive alumni networks and expanded opportunities at graduation.

In Lagniappe’s first dual-degrees installment, meet graduates who doubled their JDs with a Master of Social Work and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies.

Law + Master of Social Work: Bethany Van Kampen

Bethany Van Kampen (MSW ’13, L ‘14) was bent on a career dedicated to helping others – but she didn’t realize how far she could reach until enrolling in Tulane’s dual-degree program.

After studying psychology in college, Bethany spent two years with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, teaching English and female empowerment and helping women develop a small farming business. She then returned stateside to pursue combined Tulane law and MSW degrees.

Bethany Van Kampen earned a master of social work in 2013 and a law degree in 2014  from Tulane.

Bethany Van Kampen earned a master of social work in December 2013 and a law degree in May 2014 from Tulane. Photo by Joseph Halm.

At Tulane, Bethany delved into women’s health issues: she interned with then-Sen. Mary Landrieu, Judge Bernadette D’Souza at Orleans Parish Civil District Court, AIDSLaw of Louisiana, Metropolitan Center for Women and Children and the National Women’s Law Center; worked as a student attorney in the Domestic Violence Clinic; and co-founded Tulane’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice, an energetic student organization that’s garnered two national awards after being on campus for fewer than four years.

After graduation, she landed a job with the public affairs team of Planned Parenthood in New Orleans, gaining both policy and volunteer programming experience. And now she’s completing a fellowship with Sen. Barbara Boxer in Washington, D.C. that’s facilitated by Women’s Policy, Inc. and funded through Tulane’s Newcomb College.

Lagniappe: Why did you decide to earn dual degrees?

Bethany: I think what really drew me to the dual degrees was the idea of informed policy-making. Social work gives you the ability to understand where your legal clients come from and allows you to meet them at that point. I think certainly in traditional legal practices, like litigation, a social work background helps . . . but it does even more so for those working in policy-making and public interest law.

Lagniappe: How would you describe your experience in the combined program?

Bethany: It was a little complicated because I switched between the two programs a few times throughout the four years. . . but it was wonderful when I was able to combine both fields. For example, I did a summer internship with AIDSLaw of Louisiana, and I was able to get the social work perspective from working with clients directly, but I was also able to do legal work and get that perspective, too.

Lagniappe: What do you think are the biggest benefits of the combined law and social work degrees?

Bethany Van Kampen (center right) and her peer Women's Policy, Inc. fellows attend the organization's annual gala in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Bethany Van Kampen.

Bethany Van Kampen (center right) and her peer Women’s Policy, Inc. fellows attend the organization’s annual gala in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Bethany Van Kampen.

Bethany: One thing that’s great about the social work degree is that it helps keep me connected. I think it can be easy to lose sight of the individuals we’re trying to help when we’re working on the macro level, shaping broad law and policy. But my social work background helps me keep that perspective. . . .

Another huge benefit of this degree combination is its flexibility, because it’s applicable in so many settings. Social work is a very broad degree, and so is law. I like the flexibility of being able to do clinical work for a few years, then do policy work, then practice law and come back again!

Lagniappe: How do you think your dual degrees have helped set you apart?

Bethany: My dual degrees have certainly drawn attention in interviews, and employers have been very intrigued by the combination. And truthfully, the combination is so unique . . . since I’ve graduated and have been working, I haven’t met anyone who has the same degrees I do.

Lagniappe: What’s next after your fellowship ends?

Bethany: I definitely want to stay on the Hill for another year or two, and then I hope to work for a women’s rights organization doing policy work. There are so many groups in that field here in D.C., so hopefully I can find something. And I’ve recently starting thinking that five years down the road, I’d actually love to come back to New Orleans and maybe run for state representative. Working in D.C., a theme I keep hearing is that there’s such a lack of young women running for office . . . I really think we need to fix that, and Louisiana would be a great place to do so!

Law + Master of Arts in Latin American Studies: Annalisa Cravens

Annalisa Cravens

Annalisa Cravens, currently completing a judicial clerkship with U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, graduated with dual law and Latin American studies degrees.

As a Tulane undergraduate student, Annalisa Cravens (BA ‘10, L/MA ’14) immersed herself in her Latin American studies program. She studied abroad in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, became proficient in Spanish and Portuguese and studied Latin American perspectives in social sciences. But she still wanted to learn more – and decided to continue in Latin American studies when she applied to Tulane Law School.

Annalisa spent a year earning her master’s before transitioning to law school, where she also thrived. At Tulane Law, she worked with an immigration clinic and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, completed an externship with Judge James Dennis at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and served as senior articles editor for the Tulane Law Review. And she wrote a law review comment that won a Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing, one of the nation’s top legal writing honors.

She’s now completing a one-year judicial clerkship with U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans before starting her legal practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Houston office.

Lagniappe: Why did you pursue dual degrees?

Annalisa: I earned my undergraduate degree in Latin American studies at Tulane, so I enrolled in the master’s program mostly because I enjoyed my undergraduate studies so much. The master’s program is also fully-funded at Tulane, so I thought, why not? I didn’t realize going into it how much employers would value the master’s degree in terms of language skills and acquisition. . . . Latin American studies is what I really love and enjoy, and I wanted to continue my education in the field. I always say you should do what you like, and things will work out.

Lagniappe: How did you break up your studies in both schools?

Annalisa: I did one year in the master’s program, and then I did three years of law school. My master’s year actually felt a little like a fifth year of college, since I had just graduated in Latin American Studies the previous summer! It was a very easy transition.

Lagniappe: What are some of the benefits of the dual-degree program?

Annalisa: Tulane’s Latin American studies program is the best in the states. Every department at Tulane has at least one really strong Latin Americanist, and Tulane is consistently ranked at the top for Latin American studies. And one of the great things about the Latin American studies program is that it’s completely interdisciplinary, and you can pick your route within the program. I did a more social sciences-oriented track, but other students may focus more on language or art. There are classes in economics, sociology, anthropology, political science, art and music, to name just a few. You’re free to pick your area of focus.

Lagniappe: How have your dual degrees helped set you apart as a job candidate?

Annalisa: Since I’m clerking for a judge right now, my Latin American studies degree hasn’t been the most applicable here. But when I was interviewing for jobs, I was surprised how much employers focused on it. So many interviewers asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to do transactional law, because language skills are great for a transactional practice. But I assured them I wanted to do litigation! And there are plenty of ways I can use my skills in litigation – like international litigation and arbitration or working with foreign clients and attorneys.

Also, during my last summer clerking, I had the opportunity to speak with attorneys in Skadden’s New York office who do international arbitration work. And at one point in the summer, the Houston office’s managing partner and I met with attorneys from a firm we were working with in Mexico. It was a great experience.

Leave a Reply