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Q&A: Alumna Hannah Sawdon explains how her CMU philosophy degree prepared her for law school


Port Hope alumna Hannah Sawdon. (Courtesy Photo | Hannah Sawdon)

Port Hope alumna Hannah Sawdon always knew that she wanted to be a lawyer. After graduating this spring from Central Michigan University, her dream is coming true.

Sawdon is currently studying at Michigan State University's College of Law with a full-tuition scholarship.

After five years at CMU, Sawdon graduated last May with a Bachelor of Science. She double-majored in philosophy and religion, with a minor in ethics, values and societies, as well as a certificate in critical reasoning through the philosophy and religion department. 

She came to CMU with no plan; she just knew she wanted to go to law school. Now, she's attending the school of her choice, and she's planning to finish her master's in philosophy, while also pursuing her Juris Doctor degree. 

Currently specializing in International Law, Sawdon hopes to use her experience in philosophy during law school and her career afterward. 

Sawdon spoke to Central Michigan Life to discuss her experience at CMU and how her philosophy degree prepared her for law school.

CM Life: Why did you choose CMU?

Sawdon: I initially applied and even paid my housing fee to go to Grand Valley, then I visited Central's campus and immediately changed my mind to CMU. It was the only place I felt a strong sense of community, and that was immediately clear to me when I visited. It seemed like everyone really enjoyed being here and it made me want to go to CMU.

What advice would you give to students who are considering a philosophy class?

I tell this to people all the time. I definitely recommend taking at least one philosophy class in something you’re interested in – a lower-level class a lot of people get a lot out of it. I think it helps with your other classes, and I think that most people who do take a philosophy class and put the work in end up enjoying it a lot.

Which class benefitted you the most?

Philosophy 325: Philosophy of the Mind. I took it right after I signed my major. It was one of the first upper-level classes I took and that helped me a lot with reading comprehension. It was the first time I had heavy reading to go through and made me more comfortable with the material. This was the first class where I did a full research paper and presentation, so it prepared me for other classes in that way.

How is law school?

It's not as scary as people like to say, but still very scary.

I think a big reason people are scared of law school is students are randomly called on from a seating chart or attendance list to answer questions, so you have to be ready and prepared for every single class. That isn’t as scary to me because the majority of my philosophy classes encouraged lots of in-class dialogue and talking back and forth through things, instead of being lectured at, which I think makes me more comfortable taking part in class discussion compared to people who didn’t do that in undergrad.

Did your philosophy classes give you an advantage in law school?

During that first week we had classes, I noticed right away how philosophy helped me and made me more prepared, not in content but in the type of teaching. The majority of students here are political science majors. That content is obviously super useful to them, but the style of teaching differs so much in philosophy. Humanities in general is more geared toward graduate studies and think specifically law school.

All of my classes definitely helped me in their own way. My specialization isn’t necessarily research-heavy, but classes with full projects with research and citation and developing a paper through drafts has helped me for law school already. 

If you majored in philosophy with a different career path do you know what it would be?

I would definitely get my Ph.D. and teach philosophy and also work in research. Like I said earlier, I really don't want be done with philosophy, even though I’m in law school now.