Michael Kaphan ’15June 24, 2016
SUNY Cobleskill Grad Among 2016 Wave Hill InternsJune 29, 2016
Alumni Spotlight: Emma Tiner
B.S. in Communications, Class of ‘15
Where You'll Find Her Now
I am first in my class of 124 at Albany Law School, pursuing my J.D. This summer I am interning with a United States District Judge.
My job is to help draft the opinions. In an opinion, the judge applies existing law to the facts and makes a decision. Essentially, it’s a written explanation that accompanies the outcome of a case. It may be used by other judges to build the body of law. Of course, an intern’s initial drafts are vetted and modified by the judge’s clerks and by the judge.
What the Future Holds
I have a couple different ideas about my future at this stage. I do love the prospect of teaching law someday. However, human rights advocacy has always been my passion, particularly regarding the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled. Though it is an unconventional approach, I could see myself drafting policy and model legislation, as well as writing on the issues from a legal perspective.
"There is so much work—roughly 200 pages a week—so you can’t lose your fire and drive."
Undergraduate vs. Graduate
Graduate school is more focused and specialized. The rote answer of how my undergraduate and graduate experiences differ is the academics. In grad school, all of the classes, electives, and extra-curricular activities pertain to law. Law school has really given me more opportunities to reach my full potential, to test my knowledge, and to hone my analytical skills. I have been able to explore things that interested me as an undergrad and expand on them. If you’re going on to higher education, you have to choose something you love because it’s going to get tough. Keep your spirits up! It will all turn out for the better.
First year law students take all the same classes. One tip with a challenging class—decide to like it! For me, a great example of this was my civil procedure class. It was definitely a tough subject but I decided to make the best of it and I ended up really enjoying it. There is so much work—roughly 200 pages a week—so you can’t lose your fire and drive.
Two people spring to mind. The first and foremost is my advisor and freshman English professor, Kathy Johnson. Not only did she provide ample support throughout my time at SUNY Cobleskill, but she was a most zealous advocate for my interests, prompting jobs and scholarships. She diligently collected over a dozen letters of recommendation for my nomination for the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (which I received) and was instrumental in helping me through the long and often grueling process of applying to law school. I credit her with my academic and personal success, and she is one of the first people I call when I have good news.
The other great mentor in my mind is Erik Hage. I encountered him in the latter half of my degree and thoroughly enjoyed his classes. He really challenged me to improve and perfect my writing and is a shining example of professionalism and leadership. He was always supportive of what I wanted to accomplish. I think that that is a sign of a true mentor, looking out for their mentee’s best interest and not merely using them as a vessel for their own success.
Looking Forward While Looking Back
I started out very young at SUNY Cobleskill. I was homeschooled and began taking my first college classes when I was fifteen to fulfill my high school requirements. This set me on a path of not being bound by convention because I was able to plot my own course. I started out with the things that I loved: writing and debate. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I improved and directed these skills not only through my classes, but by leadership roles I assumed, such as being involved in both the two-year and four-year honor society and other student activities. There were so many ways in which I was able to explore my skills and use them in pursuit of my passions.
Students, Take Note
Many people are going to tell you that college is about finding yourself. I think that sometimes we know more about ourselves than we think. College is a big change. I encourage you to remember yourselves, your values, hopes, support system, and what you’re trying to accomplish. There’s a lot going on, but at the heart of it all it’s about school. Don’t see it as a drag. It’s an opportunity to remember that you chose school, and that’s important. Remember the excitement you felt when you got your acceptance letter, how your family felt. Work hard from the start. There will be plenty of time to find yourself if you need to. Don’t just look forward; look back at everything that brought you here.