By Megan Cavanaugh
Rachael Melby was your average small town girl with big dreams who has now put those dreams into action with a prestigious law internship in Washington D.C.
Melby is a Psychology major with Legal Studies, Communication and Sociology minors. As if that doesn’t sound busy enough, she has gotten three internships under her belt.
Her first internship at the Mankato Public Defender’s Office introduced her to the exact field she wants to work in.
“I was hooked from day one,” Melby said.
Hooked enough to start volunteering at the Committee Against Domestic Abuse at the same time.
Her other internships were working in the County Attorney’s office in Ottertail county where she volunteered with a crime-victim advocacy agency called “Someplace Safe.” Through this agency she worked with domestic violence victims and sexual assault survivors. Her current internship is with the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project, where she gets to complete research remotely.
All of her past experience has been exactly what the Georgetown Investigative internship acceptance committee was looking for.
These internships, especially Georgetown, wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the encouragement, support and academic pushing of advisors and mentors Sara Edwards, chair of the Legal Studies department, and Dr. Jennifer Wosmek, associate professor of Psychology and division chair for the Social and Behavioral Sciences.
“It shows that what happens outside of the classroom is as equally important as what happens inside the classroom,” Wosmek said.
“I wouldn’t have even applied if it wasn’t for her. It’s a top law school and I’m from a tiny town, Fergus Falls, and I go to Bethany,” Melby said. “[Wosmek] was very much a driving force in applying.”
Although Melby originally applied for the summer internship, her application was held on file. Having barely just started classes this semester, on a Monday, Melby received an email saying she got the position, a chance Wosmek calculated as two percent.
“While this internship is a highly selective program (accepting only 6 out of over 300 applicants), I knew she was qualified to take on this challenge. Apparently, so does Georgetown,” Wosmek said. “It is amazing, but she has the academic credentials, experience, leadership; she’s the full package.”
Wosmek is proud of Melby’s excellence in and out of the classroom, for she has a firm grasp in each of the four Psychology goals: knowledge base; scientific and critical thinking; ethical/social responsibility, respect for diversity and communication and professional development.
If anything, her dedication to her future can be determined by this statement about the LSTAT (law school entrance exam): “She’s the first one who has ever listened to my advice to take 1000 practice questions before taking the exam,” Edwards said.
All of this is necessary to achieve her goals.
“I want to be a criminal prosecutor. They bring the crimes and charge the criminals with them. I definitely want to work in criminal law,” Melby said. “I guess there’s a small chance that I could be a defense attorney, defending all the guilty people. That’s what the investigative research internship at Georgetown would be doing.”
She will be gathering evidence and information for the defense, starting Jan. 9.
“I’m going to be going out and interviewing witnesses, taking pictures of the crime scenes and all of this hands on stuff, which I am so excited for,” she said with a big smile. “I think it will be very challenging personally just because I do tend to lean towards the prosecution, but I think it will be good because everyone deserves the right to a fair trial and that’s ultimately what a defense attorney’s role is. It should be a very interesting change of pace.”
An interesting change of pace from leaving this college on a hill to work and live mere blocks from the Supreme Court of the United States.
With Wosmek’s direction, Melby has learned in order to succeed at the highest level, it is always about the next thing, next club, next class, next internship. From local internships to Washington D.C., Melby will be doing what she loves, and it all started with Bethany.
“Bethany has provided me with some excellent opportunities to have advisors who truly care,” Melby said of Wosmek and Edwards. “Both of them pushed me to actually go out and apply for things like this. Wosmek did the more professional building. She taught me how to write my resume, dress professionally, how to do follow-ups—those little things. Edwards has been good with getting me connections out into the field. She got me my first internship with the Public Defender’s office here in Mankato.”
Just as this is a big opportunity for Melby, this is a big step for Bethany.
“It’s also a shot in the arm for faculty that it is so invigorating to see the results of your efforts with students. It makes us prouder to see a student achieve [his or her] dreams and go beyond those dreams,” Wosmek said. “That’s what makes us so unique as an institution. For faculty, we define our success based on the success of our students. I hope students recognize that faculty are here for you and our programs are designed not as hoops for you to get through, but as opportunities for development, so you can achieve great things once you leave here.”
As of now, Melby doesn’t know where she will end up for law school. She views this opportunity as a taste of what it would be like to attend there. She hasn’t ruled Georgetown out, but she’s keeping her options open and her stand-ards high.
“She is self-motivated, self-disciplined and knows what she wants to do. She expects a lot of herself and others. To get into one of the top law schools, you have to have that drive,” said Edwards. “I cannot wait to see where she goes and what she does. She will be an excellent attorney. I think she will be a good representation of Bethany.”