Caitlin Schultz, '10
This article was originally published on November 25, 2013. It was updated January 9, 2017.
"Where am I now? I'm in New York City earning a master’s of law degree (LL.M.) in international legal studies at the nation's top law school for international law: New York University. I'm the only American in my program, and I'm focusing on studying China and its legal system from a comparative law standpoint: How does the Chinese legal system operate, and what differences create challenges to good governance? What roadblocks does civil society in China face in light of the political and legal climate? I think it's important to understand China and take a respectful attitude toward implementing realistic legal change within the nation's existing framework.
"How did I get here? I recently obtained a law degree from Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, and I wanted to continue my legal education and passion for understanding China. I graduated from Muskingum in 2010 with a BA in journalism, during which time I studied abroad twice in China at Lanzhou University. After graduation, my interests in broadcast media and government naturally led to my employment with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission as a telecommunications fellow for The Ohio Channel, where I worked for almost six years as a video producer covering Ohio's government. After about two years there, I was promoted to a position with the Supreme Court of Ohio, and my very first day in that new role, I applied to law school. I loved the environment at the Court: friendly, intellectual, and professional, yet so concerned with the role of the law in the everyday lives of the citizens of Ohio.
"Because I loved my job at the Court, I attended law school at night through Capital University Law School's unique part-time evening program. For any Muskies interested in going to law school, I highly recommend getting some work experience first and attending a night program. My classmates had a broad range of life experiences, which enriched our learning environment, and we took our education seriously because we sacrificed so much to make it happen. I succeeded in law school in a way that I never imagined. I tackled law school head-on and became the editor in chief of my school's legal journal, which is the highest academic honor in law school. I managed a team of fifty of my peers, and we published over two dozen articles on a variety of legal topics, written by professors, attorneys, and law students from across the country. My journalism background at Muskingum was crucial to my success at the journal, and the professional skills I gained at the Court made me an effective manager.
"My work on the journal, including an article I wrote about China's recent judicial reform efforts, led me to desire to study law more academically. I do not necessarily want to be a practicing attorney in a courtroom or at a law firm; I want to research global legal issues, do groundwork at non-government organizations around the world, and advocate for citizens before international organizations. I'm interested in social change, access to justice, and legal issues that affect people in the U.S. and around the world. My background in journalism and knowledge of Chinese society that I gained while a student at Muskingum, combined with my practical legal education at Capital Law, are shaping my academic experience in New York in ways I never imagined.
"To current Muskies and recent graduates, my advice is to never give up. As I think back to each turning point in my life, it was always a choice to either find contentment and satisfaction in where I was at that moment, or to continue pushing upward and onward. It's often a choice between the known and the unknown. Take the unknown path; you can always fall back on what's behind you, but you never know what's in front of you until you go. Your future self will thank you."
Caitlin Schultz, ’10, graduated from Muskingum with a degree in journalism. She hails from Central Ohio. Schultz chose Muskingum because “I wanted a small, close-knit college community where I could make a difference and get involved right away as a freshman.”
Since graduation, Schultz has been working as a video producer for state government in Ohio – a job that began through a post-undergraduate fellowship with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. She is now Assistant Producer for the Supreme Court of Ohio with Ohio Government Telecommunications.
Explaining her current role, Schultz says, “I broadcast official court sessions, lawyer and judge training courses, and video messages from the Ohio Supreme Court justices. My work in Ohio's judicial system inspired me to attend law school in addition to working full-time. I began pursuing a juris doctorate at Capital University Law School in 2012, where I am International Law Society President and am also involved with pro bono (volunteer) legal services to the community.”
During her undergraduate days, Schultz decided to study abroad in China because “I believe that taking the opportunity to do so is essential to understanding the human experience. I wanted most of all to learn about a different culture, but also to learn about being a global citizen. I chose to study in China specifically because I felt I would learn the most in that country; China is quite misunderstood. I wanted a more immersed experience than I felt I would have received in the Western world.”
Schultz studied abroad in China not once, but twice, spending two separate semesters at Lanzhou University. She articulates what set the two semesters apart: “During my initial trip in 2008, I intensely studied the language, learning to speak, read, and write Mandarin with fluidity. Two thousand eight was a defining year for China: not only did it host the summer Olympics, but it also was shaken, literally, by the Wenchuan earthquake, by Tibetan riots, and by other national crises. During my second trip in 2009, I again studied the language and also used those skills to interview Chinese journalism professors and students about government control of media in China, using the recent national events that I experienced along with China in 2008 as case studies.”
Because of her study abroad experiences, Schultz says, “I view the world differently. I am open to new ideas. I actively seek out and argue for opposing viewpoints. Working in the midst of state politics can be challenging and disheartening if one is not able to compromise and to understand a polar-opposite point of view. Studying abroad taught me those skills, made me more confident in my abilities, taught me what it means to work hard and study hard, and allowed me to be comfortable with independence.”
Schultz advises students considering study abroad: “Any college student hesitant to study abroad should simply throw his or her fears aside and just go for it. Have an open mind by not comparing your host country to your home country; just accept the differences for what they are and learn from them. Don't translate to and from English; just open your mouth and mind and speak the language. It will come to you if you don't hold yourself back! Also, allow yourself room to change, because you will change - into a more wonderful person.”