Wilverlyn Joye Williams experienced the excellence the University of Illinois Springfield offers both on-campus and online. Ms. Williams first attended UIS as an undergraduate, majoring in legal studies. Ms. Williams’s undergraduate experience allowed her to organize a student lobby day at the State Capitol, serve as the UIS representative on the Student Advisory Committee for the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and work with the Illinois Innocence Project. The highlight of her undergraduate education was meeting and being able to work with a future U.S. President. Through her senior project, Ms. Williams worked on an identity theft bill, which was then sponsored by (then) Illinois State Senator Barack Obama and was subsequently signed into law by the governor.
Ms. Williams later continued her education online through UIS in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program. In the 100% online Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program Ms. Williams found the flexibility she needed to take on a challenging curriculum and learn how to use the legal system to be a strong advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. While delving into her graduate research, Ms. Williams also completed an internship in the office of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, which inspired her to seek out her current position with LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago). As an Ombudsman/Paralegal at LAF, Ms. Williams works to ensure the rights of long-term care residents are not violated. She also volunteers her time with the AMVETS, IBPOEW (Elks), and the Veterans Administration Hospitals in Chicago and North Chicago.
Rachele Hendricks-Sturrup, DHSc, MSc, MA,
Legal Studies Master’s Degree – 2015
Dr. Hendricks-Sturrup is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School. After graduating with her master’s degree in legal studies, she earned her Doctor of Health Science degree from Nova Southeastern University. Her current work is centered around utilizing mixed methods research to examine issues at the intersection of precision medicine and health policy.
Dr. Hendricks-Sturrup credits the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program with helping her to prepare for a career in health science policy. She says, “The knowledge and experience I gained in the program grew my confidence and prepared me for success in high-level work as a health policy analyst, writer/editor, and doctoral student.” She chose to pursue a graduate degree in legal studies due to her interest in law and public policy and because of the program’s unique, flexible, and challenging curriculum. She elected to study at the University of Illinois Springfield because of the institution’s strong track record of excellence in the arts and sciences. Prior to obtaining her Legal Studies Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois Springfield, she received her undergraduate degree in biology from Chicago State University and a Master of Science in pharmacology and toxicology from Michigan State University.
Throughout her legal studies coursework, her main research interests were in health and environmental science policy. This research focus complemented her prior education in biomedical sciences and pushed her towards her future goal of engaging in more advanced and specialized policy research. What she found to be especially beneficial throughout the program was the enthusiastic faculty members, the challenging assignments, and thought-provoking discussions throughout each semester.
Although the curriculum is demanding, Dr. Hendricks-Sturrup would encourage future students to “embrace the challenges of the program’s curriculum”. She notes that “legal studies is a growing and diverse field”, and students would find it “worthwhile to take advantage of having the opportunity to work with similarly diverse faculty mentors who are likely to have intimate knowledge and experience in your field(s) of interest.”
The old saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks couldn’t be less accurate for Ms. Tracey Jensen. Ms. Jensen decided to pursue the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) 15 years after receiving her Bachelor’s Degree. The Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program is a non-traditional program that promotes attendance from all walks of life. There are plenty of opportunities within the Program for students to take classes on campus or online to accommodate their busy lives. Ms. Jensen chose to receive her Master’s Degree from UIS because the university had everything she wanted in a campus. “UIS is highly credentialed and has personable faculty; intriguing courses; close proximity and the cost of attendance was reasonable to my budget.” Ms. Jensen found out quickly that the Master’s Degree Program was extremely challenging, and she was able to exceed those expectations while staying competitive with traditional students. Faculty’s continuous feedback took her critical thinking and writing skills to a whole new level. She was proud to earn the respect of faculty as she further developed these skills in her time as a graduate student in this Program.
Ms. Jensen is currently an administrator for a not-for-profit social services organization. She developed her critical thinking and writing skills through the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program to help with her day-to-day professional life. The organizational skills she acquired in this Program have been beneficial for her professionally by allowing her to be as productive as possible.
Ms. Jensen would like to inform prospective students to “take a serious look at the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program.” She believes that the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program is designed to be difficult to allow students the opportunity to succeed. This Program helps individuals understand politics and the law, so one does not have to believe passively everything that he or she hears in the news media. She firmly feels that a Legal Studies Master’s Degree helps a person think for themselves and decide how to make a difference in the world.
Rodney Perry, M.A.
Legal Studies Master’s Degree – 2010
Rodney Perry is an independent consultant and expert witness in commodity futures and options compliance…and a University of Illinois Springfield’s (UIS) Legal Studies Department graduate! Mr. Perry graduated with his Master’s Degree in Legal Studies from UIS in 2010. He chose the online Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program at UIS as a way to help him professionally, while preparing him for law school. As a former graduate from University of Illinois Champaign Urbana in 1991, obtaining his Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois was an important factor for Mr. Perry. He chose the online Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program at UIS “because it had everything I wanted”. “UIS offered an online program in legal studies; classes were taught by professors and not teaching assistants; the tuition was affordable; and most of all, UIS is a part of the U of I family.”
Today, Mr. Perry serves an independent consultant and expert witness in commodity futures and options compliance and assists with litigation, arbitration, and settlement discussions. The skills he learned in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program have helped him analyze cases and evidence to determine the most effective case theme, strategy and development. In his profession, he also provides investigatory and trial expertise to law firms, futures commission merchants, brokers, traders and customers. Mr. Perry says that the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program sharpened his legal research and writing skills and provided him with career direction. He says that Program also gave him the skills necessary to succeed in the future, when he plans to attend law school.
Mr. Perry feels the best part of the Legal Studies Master’s Program was the valuable education he received along with the lifelong relationships he has with classmates and professors. He advises future students that the Legal Studies Master’s Degree is a challenge, but that it is ”well worth the time and effort”. He says the Legal Studies Master’s Degree “is designed to be difficult because it is a Master’s level program, but with the options of attending classes on campus or online the program is specially designed for students’ success”. He says, “Professors are always available to assist their students, and the student will be successful if he or she dedicates the time and energy necessary for academic excellence.”
Bryant Hitchings, J.D.
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 2006
Mr. Bryant Hitchings is currently an Assistant State’s Attorney of Coles County Illinois. Mr. Hitchings is a former graduate of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program and has received his J.D. from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan. Prior to working as an Assistant State’s Attorney, Mr. Hitchings was a legal clerk at the Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Similar to many other Legal Studies alumni, Mr. Hitchings cited the numerous “opportunities for internships in government and other public affairs positions” as a main reason why he chose to attend UIS. The Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program in particular appealed to him because he “wanted to be introduced to the legal field and get a basic understanding before attending law school.”
As a student in the Legal Studies program, Mr. Hitchings was able to pursue his main interest, criminal law. According to Mr. Hitchings, “the down to earth professors with real legal experience” made up the best parts of his UIS Legal Studies experience. He stated, “the friends I made and the overall community feeling the campus has helped create some of my fondest memories on campus.” For Mr. Hitchings, the Legal Studies program made a difference in his professional life by making him better prepared for a career in the law.
Erica Nichols Cook, J.D.
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 2005
Erica Nichols Cook is a staff attorney at the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and a Legal Studies graduate! Ms. Nichols Cook enrolled in the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program at UIS because she was able to work towards her degree and retain her full-time job as a paralegal by attending evening classes. The convenience of the Legal Studies Program accommodated her schedule and she was able to receive the education she needed to progress professionally.
After graduating with her Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree, Ms. Nichols Cook went on to attend law school at Drake University Law School. The knowledge and experience she gained through the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program provided her with a strong foundation for success in law school. After graduating law school, Ms. Nichols Cook was an assistant public defender with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. She has now returned to UIS as a staff attorney with the Illinois Innocence Project.
The knowledge and experience Ms. Nichols Cook gained through the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program helped her pursue her educational and professional goals. During her time spent in the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program she valued the camaraderie of the Legal Studies students and the opportunity for students to work with the Illinois Innocence Project. Ms. Cook encourages prospective and current Legal Studies students to get involved in activities on campus and to gain experience in the field.
Sarah Dunnagan, M.A.
Legal Studies Master’s Degree – 1999
As Associate Director at National Louis University, Mrs. Dunnagan acted as a key player in the implementation of Customer Relations Management software for the enrollment department to help “serve those who serve.” Her job allows her to be part of an institution whose mission is to assist teachers and health care workers. The skills she learned in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program helped her improve her research ability, organize the information and apply it to the appropriate circumstance. She states that “the knowledge I gained in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program had provided me a plan for nearly every situation, no matter if it was in my professional or personal life.”
Mrs. Dunnagan graduated from UIS in 1999 with her Legal Studies Master’s Degree. She chose this Program because she says, “I was interested in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program since it allowed me to work with information gathering as well as organization.” Mrs. Dunnagan utilized the UIS Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program to sharpen her information gathering and analyzing skills to lead her down her current career path.
Mrs. Dunnagan valued the engaging learning experience she received in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program. The dynamic discussions and constant interaction with fellow students and faculty allowed her to develop long-lasting relationships within the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program. She advises prospective Legal Studies students that although the Program is perplexing, the “tools and abilities you acquire will be applicable, useful and meaningful in anything you do.” She states that the Legal Studies Master’s Degree is a challenging program but to not be disheartened. Mrs. Dunnagan encourages students to “pursue interests and build on which you enjoy. The Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program may lead you down a different path of interest. But you will learn necessary skills to help you successfully in the career that you choose.”
Dr. H. Todd Evans
Legal Studies Master’s Degree – 1998
Dr. Evans is one of the many University of Illinois Springfield’s (UIS) alumni that was able to practice skills acquired in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program that go beyond the scope of law. Today, Dr. Evans serves as a music educator. The best part of the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program for Dr. Evans was “the rigor and challenge with which I learned how to conduct legal research.” His research skills have come in handy when finding appropriate material for his students’ learning. The Program prepared him to conduct legal research beyond his Legal Studies Master’s Degree. As he furthered his education after UIS, he was able to “weed out good articles from useless ones.” He credits his research skills to UIS for preparing him in earning his Ed. D after UIS.
Dr. Evans selected the University of Illinois Springfield as the institution to earn his Legal Studies Master’s Degree because UIS fit his requirements. “The tuition was affordable and the location was close to home.” He had every intention of attending law school after UIS, and he felt that this Program would appropriately prepare him. Although he did not go on to law school, Dr. Evans is grateful for the knowledge he received in the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program because this Program gave him the essential background to lead him down a different career path that better suited him.
The Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program is arranged in a way to challenge students to work at a level they may not be comfortable with. He advises students to not feel discouraged. He encourages students “to take as many classes with Kathryn Eisenhart as possible. She will work you very, very hard. You’ll never forget her, and you will be headed for a brilliant legal-oriented career if you listen to her and do exactly what she tells you!”
Laura Millmore, J.D.
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 1995
Laura Millmore is currently a magistrate judge in the 54-A District Court in Lansing, Michigan. After receiving her University of Illinois Springfield’s Legal Studies Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1995, she attended the Michigan State University College of Law and graduated cum laude with her J.D. in 2002. Magistrate Millmore has the distinction of becoming a magistrate judge only two years after graduation from law school.
The University of Illinois Springfield’s Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program originally appealed to Magistrate Millmore because of the school’s close location to Springfield and her lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer. Additionally, the flexibility of being able to take both night and day classes was crucial to her success. During part of her tenure at UIS, she was employed as a full-time driver for United Parcel Service and needed the ability to schedule classes in the evening.
While completing her Legal Studies degree, her research focused on the topics of civil rights and the rights of LGBT individuals. For Magistrate Millmore her fondest memory of Legal Studies is the dedicated faculty and the Law and Literature class that showed her “how much I could enjoy reading legal literature for the first time in my life.” The Legal Studies Degree that Judge Millmore received at UIS has also made a difference in her life and professional career. According to her, “Getting my degree made me realize that I could get a J.D. later in life. I was and am very proud of the education I received at UIS.”
Scott Larkin, M.A.
Legal Studies Master’s Degree – 1993
While attending the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS), Mr. Scott Larkin states he “ended up getting connected with various State of Illinois Labor Relations people and was able to get into that field after graduation.” Today, Mr. Larkin serves as the Director of Labor Relations for the Associated General Contractors, Central Illinois Builders Chapter. Mr. Larkin states that the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program at UIS was “a good confidence builder; it really fine-tuned your reading, writing, speaking and research skills.” He uses these skills on a daily basis in his professional career.
Mr. Larkin chose UIS specifically for the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program. He originally was thinking about attending law school, and he thought the Program would “be a good way to get a flavor of that environment.” He enjoyed his time at UIS because he states that this Program “is unique at a very unique institution.” He appreciates the Program’s design to have faculty challenge his thinking and writing skills because it ultimately led him to this career in Labor Relations after he graduated with a Legal Studies Master’s Degree in 1993.
He wants prospective students to know that the Legal Studies Master’s Degree “provides individuals with excellent basic skills that can be applicable in a wide range of careers.” He has been able to successfully implement these learned skills from the Legal Studies Master’s Program. He advises students to take the time to get to know the people around you. Mr. Larkin took advantage of opportunities to develop lasting relationships that led to a career, and he encourages students to do the same.
Karen Morrow, B.A.
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 1987
The Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) helped train Ms. Karen Morrow for a career as a paralegal. Ms. Morrow was employed full-time when she attended UIS to earn her Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree in 1987. As a part-time student, Ms. Morrow chose the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program because it had “a great reputation and dedicated professors who were willing to work with part-time students who were employed full-time.” She wanted to learn as much as possible about the law since she had intended on going to law school after she earned her Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree.
Ms. Morrow now works as a Medical Paralegal (Medical Liability Specialist). After earning her Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree, Ms. Morrow decided she enjoyed paralegal work and elected not to go to law school. The Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program at UIS expanded her ability to analyze cases and organize information effectively. Her professional transition from the medical field into the legal field was enhanced by her participation in the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program.
Ms. Morrow encourages other students to pursue a Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree because it “affords you the ability to work in a variety of employment positions even if you elect to not work in a law firm.” She advises students to stick with the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program. Professors work the students hard in preparation for students to succeed in any project they engage in.
John Little, B.A.
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 1987
John Little’s interest in criminal law and public affairs led him to the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). He was drawn to the UIS campus because of its “convenient location” as well as the Legal Studies Program suiting his educational needs by “focusing on public affairs.” The Legal Studies Program enabled Mr. Little to “concentrate on practical skills, especially researching and writing.”
Mr. Little has found the research and writing skills to be extremely valuable in all professional positions he has held. One of his prior professional positions included working as a Legal Investigator for the Illinois EPA. He continues to utilize his knowledge from the Legal Studies Program in his current position as Field Service Director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Mr. Little feels his experiences at the University of Illinois Springfield have “supported him in making positive contributions to society and in the lives of many individuals.”
Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, Mr. Little looked at other schools and chose the Legal Studies Program at the University of Illinois Springfield because the Program had a “wonderful reputation” and he “was interested in pursuing a law degree after earning his Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree.” But he did not pursue a law degree because he realized the potential that his degree had to offer. Mr. Little was able to engage himself a career field that he enjoys. He persuades prospective Legal Studies students to “work hard to earn your degree and then dedicate yourself and your skills to the betterment of the world around you.”
Mary Mucciante, B.A.
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 1984
Ms. Mucciante is currently employed as a data analyst for the Illinois Department of Human Services. Her main research interest while attending the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) included administrative law and state government work. The courses offered in the UIS Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program allowed her to pursue her interests and develop her research and analysis skills for her education as well as her career.
Ms. Mucciante chose UIS because the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program contained courses she wished to pursue as well as the convenience of the Program with her schedule. The suitable night schedule allowed her to work during the day so she could attend classes at night to keep her on pace for graduation. The proximity of the campus was convenient for her travel needs. She learned necessary skills in the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program that set a foundation for her to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from UIS. The Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program gave her the ability to understand the Public Administration course work from a legal perspective.
Ms. Mucciante overcame the obstacles of working and attending class to graduate with a Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree. The motivating course work inspired her to accomplish career goals. Ms. Mucciante advises prospective Legal Studies students “stay with classes and the Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree will be an asset to any career they choose to pursue.” The professors will challenge students to work at their highest level, but it is done to prepare students for life outside of the classroom atmosphere.
Donna Pedro Lennon, M.A.
Legal Studies Master’s Degree -1980
Donna chose the Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) for several reasons including her interest in political and legal issues and public affairs. Her husband taught at UIS and she had three children at home while pursuing her Master’s Degree. She thought the Legal Studies Master’s Degree would be a great compliment to her Political Studies Bachelor’s Degree from UIS. Donna states that “the best parts of the Legal Studies Program were the challenging classes, the dedicated professors and fellow students- so I guess it was all ‘best.’” As a Graduate Assistant in the Legal Studies Department, she was able to pursue her research interests in juvenile justice and legislative politics.
After receiving her Legal Studies Master’s Degree, Donna made significant contributions in her professional positions. Critical thinking skills, developed through her Legal Studies courses, gave her the ability to interact objectively with people. She says these skills “aided me when communicating with the legislature, teaching, and selling real estate.” Some of her work experiences include being a legal assistant in IDOT’s Chief Counsel’s Office, a rules liaison to the Illinois Legislative Rules Committee for IDOT’s Hazardous Materials Sections, a lecturer at Lincoln Land Community College and Penn State University, and a real estate professional. Earning a Legal Studies Master’s Degree from UIS enabled her to become well-rounded individual, and prepared to pursue all of her interests; she was equipped with all the skills for success.
Donna advises students to “stick with the Legal Studies Program. It is a difficult program but well worth your effort.” She hopes students realize that there are opportunities to pursue many different career paths. She states, “As you can see from my various professional positions, the degree works well to prepare for a variety of careers.” The Legal Studies Master’s Degree will provide students with the foundation to build fundamental skills necessary to prepare them for successful careers after graduation.
Dr. Erma Brooks Williams
Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree – 1979
The convenience of location and affordability of tuition were among the reasons why Dr. Williams attended the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). The Legal Studies Program is established to fit around students’ schedules and Dr. Williams was no exception. She worked full-time while attending University of Illinois Springfield to earn her Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree.
Dr. Williams has had a prosperous career, and she was able to develop basic fundamental skills by completing her Bachelor’s Degree in the Legal Studies Program at UIS. As she continued her education beyond UIS, she utilized learned research and writing tactics from the UIS Legal Studies Program. These skills assisted in her educational and professional success. Some of her prior professional experiences include being the Special Assistant to United States Congressmen Harold Washington and Charles Hayes; Assistant Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois Chicago; Research Analyst for Comptroller’s Office; Budget Analyst for the Illinois House of Representatives; Supervisor of the Senate Pages for the Illinois State Senate and the list continues. She is the current Associate to the President for the Board of Trustees and Governmental Affairs for Chicago State University.
Dr. Williams felt the best part of Legal Studies Bachelor’s Program was “learning how to conduct research and writing.” She consistently has used these learned skills from the Legal Studies Program in her educational and professional career. The Legal Studies Program inspired Dr. Williams to accomplish professional goals. She advises future students to “be persistent” in accomplishing their goals and “studying diligently” will help students succeed as well.
Mary Elizabeth Perrigo, M.A.
Legal Studies Master’s Degree
Ms. Perrigo chose the Legal Studies Master’s Degree program because at the time she was employed in a management position with a State agency in Springfield and, while she had a desire to continue her education, she thought law school would be too limiting for her future.
Ms. Perrigo found the Legal Studies professors and education “excellent” and credits the program with utilizing a broad-based approach which allowed her to gain the knowledge to advance her career in areas such as government relations and court administration. In her current position as Deputy District Court Administrator in Wisconsin’s First Judicial District, she works in a large, complex, urban court system and in addition to general court administration her areas of responsibility include media relations, security and community outreach. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and the National Association for Court Management, recently serving on the workgroup to develop the organization’s media guide.
Her role also includes serving as Chair, Public Outreach and Education, Milwaukee Community Justice Council; an Executive Committee member of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission; an appointed member of the Subcommittee on Security for the Planning and Policy Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Supreme Court; and being a frequent contributor to The Third Branch, a quarterly publication of the Director of State Courts Office.
She has extensive experience in executive-level policy development and management with diverse organizations including serving as the Assistant Director of Legal and Legislative Affairs, Illinois Department of Registration and Education (now Department of Professional Regulation); Manager, American Society for Quality; and, government relations associate, Shea, Paige, Rogal, attorneys and lobbyists.
Ms. Perrigo is the past Director of the Olympic Development Program for Wisconsin Youth Soccer/US Youth Soccer and volunteered at the Dominican Center for Women as part of a literacy project for women. She has been recognized by the United States Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, for “extraordinary contribution to the prevention of violence against women and dedication to the successful implementation of the Judicial Oversight Demonstration Initiative” and is a past recipient of “Woman Putting Their Stamp on Metro Milwaukee” an award from the United States Postal Service given as a part of their annual celebration of Women’s History Month.
Ms. Perrigo credits the UIS Legal Studies Master’s Program with helping her develop strategic and critical thinking skills, particularly the legal research and writing classes. She encourages students to pursue a Legal Studies Master’s Degree to develop those skills and learn about the law in a way that it can be applied to many situations and work environments. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Springfield and recently completed certification in judicial administration at Michigan State University.