Master of Legal Studies graduate, journalist Andrea Kelly

How Journalist Andrea Kelly Boosted Her Newsroom Credentials with Master of Legal Studies Degree

Alejandra Cardenas Cuestas

Andrea Kelly (’16) always wanted to study law but didn’t think being a lawyer was for her. She chose journalism instead, starting her career more than a decade ago at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson before becoming a producer with Arizona Public Media.

Yet, she never lost her interest in the law.

“Aside from my existing desire to learn about the law, I also knew it would be useful to me in my work as a journalist, Kelly says. “I have always covered government and politics, so understanding the legal system and how courts evaluate cases is directly applicable to explaining court decisions and their implications to the public.” 

When she learned about the Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program at University of Arizona Law, she knew it was a perfect fit. The one-year degree, offered both on campus and online, gives students a foundation for working with and understanding laws, regulations and the legal system and teaches legal analysis and communication skills. It covers general legal knowledge and also offers 11 concentrations in areas such as compliance, business, mining and tax. 

[LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MASTER OF LEGAL STUDIES DEGREE]

Kelly acknowledges that working full time and pursuing her MLS degree part time was a lot of work, but says she found the experience enriching and worth the time, energy and effort. Kelly took all but one class in person, as she preferred the classroom setting and the opportunity to interact with her professors and other students.

“I was surprised to realize I enjoyed going back to school and that I approached it with more diligence and dedication than my bachelor’s degree of a decade prior,” she says. “I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of studying and attending classes and debating and discussing the legal issues.”

As a journalist, Kelly found the MLS degree has helped her do a better job of informing the public.

“Many of the most important parts of public life touch the legal system, so having an education helps me translate or explain the kinds of decisions that shape so much of how our world works today,” Kelly says.

A Versatile Degree with Career-Boosting Power

While the MLS was an obvious fit for her own career, Kelly thinks it is a versatile degree that can be applied in a large variety of professions.

“It can supplement one’s work in almost any industry, and can lead to another, as well,” Kelly says. “There are many choices MLS students can make about their course of study, so I’d advise careful consideration of those options before assuming the program does or does not fit your goals.”

Kelly graduated in 2016 and last August was promoted to assistant news director at Arizona Public Media, where she manages a team of 10 reporters in producing daily and weekly radio and television shows on culture, arts, current events and public affairs.

She says the degree gave her exactly what she wanted: enhanced knowledge and skills, plus stronger career prospects.

“[Having the degree] enriches my ability to inform the public about the government and those who run it or make decisions about policy. I also hope that it will make me a more competitive candidate for any jobs I seek in the future.”

A past winner of multiple regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Kelly was also one of Tucson’s “40 Under 40” winners in 2017.