Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Melanie Stuart
Name: Melanie Stuart
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Philosophy, University of Rochester, 2008. University of Virginia School of Law
Current city/state of residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Family: Engaged to Rick Siders; Rocky (Schnoodle puppy)
When and how did you choose your major?
I took an introductory geology class my first year at UR. After my first lab for the class, I knew it wasn’t for me. Instead, I switched into the introductory Philosophy class, Moral Problems. I was fascinated by the readings and the class discussion regarding controversial, difficult problems that we all wrestle with, such as capital punishment, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide. From there, I was hooked and eventually graduated with a Philosophy major, emphasis in Law and Ethics.
What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but what got me through UR were the smoothies at the coffee shop and the candy shop outside the Pit. I don’t even know if these food stops are there anymore, but getting bulk candy bridge mix to take to the library stacks is by far the best resource I can recommend!
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
After graduation I enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia. I had a good idea I wanted to go to law school beginning in my senior year of high school when I took a law course. Majoring in philosophy only reaffirmed that law school would be the right path for me. I learned to love writing and developing well-formed arguments and thinking about issues from multiple different perspectives.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I am now an attorney with the federal government working in immigration law. I am fascinated by the complexity of the field as well as the wide range of legal topics it covers. From criminal law and family law, to international and humanitarian law, immigration has it all. Most importantly, there is a very human aspect that brings it all into perspective, which I find is helpful to remember amidst all the political controversy surrounding the field.
What advice do you have for current students?
The best advice I have for current students is to get involved. Certainly you can get involved in on-campus activities and I definitely recommend that. But even if that isn’t for you, I think more importantly, students should start thinking about what they want to do and find an internship or other way to get involved in the greater community. Not only do you meet amazing people and gain a broader understanding of how you can turn your interests into a career, but it is also a wonderful way to impress your future employers. Even volunteering for a week or two will get you some great exposure and gives you something to add to your resume – a great way to demonstrate your interest in whatever field you choose to pursue.