Now that Alyssa Slaimen is at Notre Dame Law School – she learned of her acceptance there just before graduating from Johnson State College in May 2016 — it may be easier to track her down than when she was at JSC. As an undergraduate, she might have been volunteering at an orphanage in India, engaged in immigration fieldwork in Russia, studying the legal system in Cuba, interning at the Vermont State House, or serving as the student member of the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) Board of Trustees. “I’ve always been a free spirit,” says Slaimen, a political science major from Wolcott, Vermont, who minored in global studies.
A project installing piping to deliver clean water to a Nicaragua village cemented her plan to study international law. The experience exposed her to income inequality and other human rights issues. “I want to represent the people who often are not represented at the table and don’t have a voice,” Slaimen says — such as women, refugees, and farmers and artisans who struggle to earn a living wage.
After the Nicaragua trip, she led a student group to Washington, D.C., to work with an organization helping torture and war-trauma victims who sought asylum in the U.S. Her senior thesis was “Who is Responsible for The Migrant Crisis in the Middle East?” With her interests in human rights and travel, she’s considering pursuing work that involves U.N. peacekeeping, international diplomacy or post-conflict reconstruction overseas.
Slaimen’s interest in global affairs comes naturally. Her grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to the U.S. As a first-generation college student, Slaimen took advantage of many diverse opportunities at Johnson State. In 2014-15, her junior year, she participated in discussions on major topics as the student representative on the VSC Board of Trustees. She voted on new tuition rates, served on the presidential search committee for JSC, and cast a vote for a new VSC chancellor. “I was the liaison between all students who attend Vermont State Colleges and the trustees,” Slaimen says. “It really prepared me for law school by giving me negotiation skills.”
Slaimen observed the art of negotiation from a different angle, too. She was a legislative intern at the Vermont State House for state senators Bill Doyle of Washington County and Richard Westman of Lamoille County. Doyle, a longtime professor at JSC, was a mentor early on. “He introduced me to so many people who opened doors for me,” she says.
JSC’s small size, and the ability it affords to get to know faculty and other students, was one reason Slaimen chose Johnson. “The president was really visible,” she says. “I always saw her and all the deans. Students could go talk with them if they had a problem.”
Slaimen received support for some of the trips she took during her time at JSC from the President’s Fund for Excellence in Teaching & Learning. She also She received several scholarships, including one from JSC’s Ellsworth Trust, a private foundation that supports students majoring in history or political science. She worked as the student assistant to the trust, which gave her scholarship help for law school. “I went to Johnson with a lot of ideas. I got a lot of support for what I was interested in and what I wanted to do,” Slaimen says. “I don’t think I could have done half as much anywhere else. Johnson was the best choice for me.”