Senior Jocelyn Garcia discusses her passions, plans and what persuaded her to join the BA in Law program
Jocelyn Garcia has big plans for her future. Following graduation this May, the honors student, who is a double major in Law and Political Science with a double minor in Mexican American Studies and Special Education & Rehabilitation, hopes to attend law school to become a civil rights attorney specializing in immigration or disability education rights.
“I am extremely interested in public interest law, specifically education law, but I also want to volunteer,” said Garcia. “I think community education and knowing your rights is important. Because of my experience, I know that if you don't know what your rights are, you don't know how to advocate for yourself.”
In high school, Garcia witnessed the difficulties her sister experienced within the education system as a designated special needs student. It wasn’t until a disability education lawyer was recruited to help advocate on the family’s behalf that her sister was able to obtain the support they needed.
When she came to the University of Arizona, Garcia knew she too wanted to work as an advocate for her community but wasn’t sure of the best route to take until she found the BA in Law.
“I started in political science, and I found myself gravitating towards law electives. I took Intro to Human Rights Law; I took Visualizing Justice and that's really what solidified for me that this is what I want to do.”
Garcia is one of 1,600 students currently enrolled in Arizona’s Bachelor of Arts in Law program offered in partnership with the School of Government and Public Policy at the College of Social and Behavioral Science, which launched in 2014 in response to dramatic and ongoing changes in the legal profession. In many other countries, the study of law is part of an undergraduate education, but Arizona was the first university in the U.S. to offer a BA in law, thus redefining legal education in the United States.
In a program with a history of firsts, Garcia is the first to be awarded the David G. Hastings BA in Law Endowed Scholarship, the first-ever scholarship for a program of this type in the nation. The scholarship was established by double wildcat David G. Hastings, founder of the Phoenix firm Hastings & Hastings, who credits his time at the university for being a motivating factor in establishing the award. “I love the university, I wanted to give back and this is something that is meaningful to me,” shared Hastings.
Hastings is an alumnus of both the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and the James E. Rogers College of Law. He began his legal career representing many of the largest insurance companies in the world, but in 1981 he founded Hastings & Hastings, dedicated to representing victims of negligence and implementing a revolutionary pricing system that made legal services more accessible to those in need. An innovator in the legal field, Hastings recognized the important role graduates of the BA program had in advancing the industry and wanted to offer his support.
“This groundbreaking, interdisciplinary degree program started as a tool to address the community need for professionals who have a fundamental understanding of law and legal skills,” explained Keith Swisher, director of the BA in Law program. “In a short amount of time, the program has grown to become an integral part of Arizona Law, adding to our diversity, our reach, our strength, and our impact. Its success owes so much to the dedication of the Arizona Law faculty, administrative team, and alumni, the steady support of our partner, the School of Government and Public Policy, and of course the enthusiasm and quality of our students – with Jocelyn being a perfect example.”
Garcia is a fitting first recipient of the award, as her professional goals align with the values Hastings has instilled at his firm.
“I think the legal field has endless opportunities, particularly for public service work, where you can help people. Jocelyn will also have countless opportunities in the private sector to use that degree to really help other people,” noted Hastings. “She has a lot of avenues that she can use to explore ways of helping others.”
Visualizing A More Just Future
When she’s not studying, Garcia is active on campus working as a resident assistant, participating as a member of the Lambda Theta Alpha sorority and serving her second term as the president of the multi-cultural and identity-based Greek council.
Through the BA program, she’s been able to marry her interest in the law with her passion for community advocacy. In one instance, her work as part of Arizona Law’s Innovation for Justice Program’s Visualizing Justice course helped to inform her senior thesis project, in which she plans to create resources for parents of students with learning differences so they have the information they need to be advocates for their children.
Garcia also hopes to be a resource for other students going through the program. When asked what advice she might provide first-year students new to the major, Garcia noted:
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because it's out there, and you deserve it.”