Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Peirce student wins 2009 National Federation of Paralegal Associations/Thompson Reuters Scholarship

I received some pretty exciting news from a current Peirce student today! Susan Witte, a student in our Paralegal Studies program, has been selected to receive the 2009 National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)/Thomson Reuters Scholarship.

This is no small honor for Susan, as the NFPA is one of the largest and most influential associations in the paralegal profession. Quite simply, they work on a national and regional level to advance and promote the paralegal profession and continuing education in the field. Susan will accept the scholarship, which is the top honor awarded by the Association, at the NFPA “Celebrate Success” Awards Luncheon on October 31 in Portland, Ore.

Recipients of this year’s scholarship were asked to submit essays centered on the theme of equal access to justice. Susan’s award-winning essay was selected by a panel of NFPA professionals from an extensive number of other submissions from paralegal students across the country.

While congratulating Susan on her scholarship, we asked her to share some thoughts with us about her background, why she decided to become a paralegal, and how she came to choose Peirce College.



Susan’s story is a fairly familiar one during the current economic downturn. After more than 20 years in the wealth management and banking industry, she was laid off in the fall of 2008, and found herself searching for new opportunity. Fortunately, this happened just two weeks before the beginning of a new semester at Peirce. You know what they say about the "closed door, open window," right?

Even before the upheaval in her professional world, Susan had been largely unhappy with her career. She explained,

“For some time I had felt unfulfilled by my current professional path. I found myself looking for new challenges, and I had always been drawn to the legal profession. I had even received my undergraduate degree in political science from Northeastern University in Boston. Like many, I wound up in another industry and built a successful career. But it never felt quite right.”

Susan had looked into paralegal studies programs even before her layoff, and was researching different schools. She had even spoken with Stephen Ampersand in the Peirce Admissions Department. Her layoff gave her the opportunity to pursue continuing education full-time.

She says she was careful to do her research when making a final decision about a school.

“First and foremost, I heard from both my friends in the legal profession and through my own research that the program must be an ABA-approved paralegal program. Peirce was one of a select few schools to offer this in the greater Philadelphia area."

The combination of online and classroom education was another feature that drew Susan to the college.

“For me personally, I’ve always enjoyed attending classes at Peirce. Part of that is my love for the City of Philadelphia and the fact that the school is located in such a great area. But having the option of classrooms or online courses was a valuable offering -- it gave me the freedom to select what worked best for me at different times."
“Honestly, the final factor for me in choosing Peirce was the overwhelmingly positive interactions I had with the faculty and staff. It is an exceptional group of people. Their endless patience and willingness to be mentors...I've never felt so supported."

Are there any contrasts in the experience that she had at Northeastern as a young college student to what she has experienced at Peirce College?

“The two experiences have proven to be very different. My time at Northeastern was well spent and provided me with essential knowledge and skills. But I would say my Peirce experience has proven to be much more career-focused. The primary goal of my time at Peirce is to be educated and trained for a new job as a paralegal -- bottom-line -- and that is what the school has done for me.”
"I’m thrilled to be here, to be taking the steps to move down this new path where I can really make a difference and help people. I’m so glad to have found Peirce to help me.”

We’re thrilled to have you as student Susan, and we’d like to extend our congratulations on this great achievement. We look forward to hearing more about your trip to Portland, and hope to see any post-event photos you may have to share with everyone. And don't forget to keep us updated on your progress on the road to becoming a paralegal!