Students explore careers in law in the Twin Cities with Piper Center Connections Program
While most St. Olaf College students went home for fall break, a small cohort of students with their sights set on careers in law and policy instead traveled to the Twin Cities to connect with a wide range of alumni working in the field.
The St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s multi-day Law and Policy Connections Trip included meetings with private attorneys, human rights advocates, a federal judge, law students, and others — all of them Oles.
Students toured two Twin Cities law schools and met with current students and faculty, but they also spent their days seeing what legal practice can look like. They visited public agencies such as the District Court of Minnesota and Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, as well as law-focused nonprofits including Southern Minnesota Legal Services and Advocates for Human Rights. They also visited private firms such as Dorsey & Whitney LLP.
Piper Center Associate Director for Career Development Katie Hughes, who advises pre-law students, says the program enables participants to make meaningful connections with professionals in the field.
“It’s really a great opportunity for students to do some vocational discernment, to hear more about what Oles are doing in these fields, and to try and figure out if this is the path they want to go on,” she says.
The program struck a balance between helping students make real-life connections and helping them decide what they want life to look like after graduation.
“It was so interesting to see both past and present Oles in one room,” Melissa Biesmann ’20 says about the visit to Dorsey & Whitney, her favorite part of the trip. “It made you realize the extensive network that St. Olaf College can give you.”
It was so interesting to see both past and present Oles in one room. It made you realize the extensive network that St. Olaf College can give you.Melissa Biesmann ’20
Kristian Noll ’21 was amazed at the opportunity to visit the federal courthouse and meet with the Honorable Eric Tostrud ’87, U.S. District Court judge for the District of Minnesota. “Walking into the courtroom was quite an experience,” he says.
Piper Center Associate Director of Alumni Engagement Kristine Estenson says the program’s goal is to provide students with both perspective and assistance in pursuing a career in law or policy.
“Part of it is exposure to different careers, but a lot of it is just hearing personal stories to learn that people’s paths are winding and varied,” she says.
This is one of many Connections programs offered through the Piper Center. No matter their interest, students can find a program for them with offerings in disciplines such as environment and sustainability, media and film, social impact, and data science. Many programs are also offered at little or no cost to students; the Law and Policy Connections trip required only a $25 refundable deposit with meals, lodging, and transport covered by the college.
St. Olaf College’s ability to offer these programs is a product of devoted alumni and passionate students.
“Students leave Law and Policy Connections understanding that the law offers a broad range of careers and that law school can open doors to a whole host of opportunities,” says Piper Center Director Leslie Moore ’77. “My colleagues in the Piper Center and I are so grateful to our alumni and employers for taking the time to share their expertise and work histories with students.”
Students leave Law and Policy Connections understanding that the law offers a broad range of careers and that law school can open doors to a whole host of opportunities.Piper Center Director Leslie Moore ’77
As alumni continue to inspire and mentor students, Oles who once benefited from the network now join it and become mentors themselves. This aligns perfectly with Estenson’s vision for the Law and Policy Connections Trip.
“Hopefully,” she says, “students come away from this knowing that there is a network of Oles out there offering support and resources.”