Two University of Southern Mississippi Honors College students from Jones County, Miss. have been accepted into one of the most prestigious law schools in the country.
Seniors Justin Roland of Laurel, an English and philosophy double major and Mark Hamrick of Moselle, a communication studies major, will enroll in the law school at Duke University this fall. The two became friends at Southern Miss after joining its Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
A Presidential Scholar, Roland is an Honors College Ambassador and a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. Hamrick served as chief of staff for the Student Government Association (SGA), is an Honors College Ambassador and a member of Eagle Connections.
Both said the Duke Law School was appealing for its consistent rating as among America’s best law schools, including a ranking of 11th best in the country by U.S. News and World Report. “When we went to visit the campus, we fell in love with it,” said Hamrick.
“I think Mark and Justin's acceptance at Duke speaks volumes both of the quality of our students and of the education they've received at Southern Miss,” said Dr. David R. Davies, dean of the Honors College. “They're incredibly bright young men, and I predict they'll do very well indeed at this very competitive law school.”
Roland said an ethics class he took from Dr. Chris Myers spurred his interest in issues of right and wrong commonly dealt with in the legal profession. “I like the application of logical thinking to problems that it (law) requires, a skill I gained in my philosophy courses,” he said.
Hamrick has seen the many career opportunities a law degree offers, including through his internships with the U.S. Treasury Department and in Sen. Thad Cochran’s office in Washington, D.C. His undergraduate program included courses examining persuasion, conflict resolution and negotiation – all central to the work of an attorney. In one course he prepared a closing argument for a hypothetical legal case.
Hamrick said the skills he gained in his classes have prepared him for law school. “So much of what I have learned in my communication studies degree program is applicable in a legal career,” he said.
When they get to North Carolina they will join Southern Miss Honors College graduate and current Duke Law School student Paul Saputo. Both pointed to Saputo as an example of achievement that inspires other Honors College students. “When they do it, it lets you know that you can do it,” Roland said.
“I'm tremendously excited about having two more Golden Eagles with me at Duke Law, and I’m particularly happy with these two gentlemen,” Saputo said. “Mark was a great friend while I was at Southern Miss, and Justin stood out as a true role model. I’m absolutely confident they’ll represent USM in the finest fashion at Duke.”
Saputo believes Southern Miss provides a foundation of leadership and a wealth of practical experience in thinking beyond institutional boundaries, along with the experience of working alongside an accomplished faculty in a real world environment.
That combination prepares its graduates to succeed in law school and other fields, he said.
“Southern Miss students are incredibly diverse, and I graduated from there with the confidence of being able to work with anyone,” he said. “And as a student in its Honors College, I had unparalleled opportunities to work one-on-one with leading scholars.”
Roland and Hamrick concur. “Southern Miss is for all intents and purposes, where I grew up and became the person I am today,” Roland said. “It provided me with an intellectual environment that nurtures achievement. I believe without the lessons I learned at Southern Miss I would not have been accepted to Duke.”
Hamrick also credits Southern Miss for his own personal development and helping pave the way to Duke. “We’ve got a great faculty and they have me more than 100 percent ready for law school,” he said. “And I’ve enjoyed being a student in the Honors College here. I’m really going to miss USM.”