1L pursues law degree as another means to serve
Throughout 1L Amy Riedel’s life, she has felt a strong commitment to community and service. Her time in the Navy and her volunteer work led her to pursue a legal degree in hopes of making a difference in multi-planetary exploration and resource cultivation as the world looks toward the future.
Through the Pat Tillman Foundation, Riedel is now a Tillman Scholar, a program which recognizes veterans and their spouses for “extraordinary academic and leadership potential, a true sense of vocation, and a deep commitment to create positive change through their work in the fields of medicine, law, business, education, and the arts.”
The foundation was started in 2004 in honor of the life and service of Pat Tillman, an Army Ranger with the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment. A Safety with the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman put his successful football career on hold in 2002 after the September 11 terrorist attacks to enlist in the Army and serve his country. On April 22, 2004 Tillman’s unit was ambushed in eastern Afghanistan and he lost his life trying to provide cover for his fellow soldiers. Friends and family started the foundation as a way to carry on his legacy by giving military veterans and spouses who embody the principles demonstrated through Tillman’s service and actions the educational tools and support they need to reach their fullest potential as leaders.
Riedel is one 60 individuals that were chosen as part of this year’s class of scholars.
As a high schooler, Riedel always knew she wanted to pursue a career that would not only challenge her, but would also provide her with an outlet to serve her community. After learning of the United States Naval Academy, she said she knew she had found her calling.
“I was looking for this really amazing, difficult opportunity and I had always known that I wanted to serve my country, so it all culminated into going to a military academy. When I learned about the Naval Academy, I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do, this was who I wanted to be. I wanted to be the type of person who serves my country as a leader and officer,” she said.
After serving for five years in the Navy as a Surface Warfare officer on warships, she honorably separated from the Armed Forces to spend more time with her husband, who is also a naval officer, and their two children. Not long after, however, she began to feel the need to put the skills she developed during her time in the service to use serving her country and community in a new way.
“I separated from the Navy in 2014 and I was trying to decide what to do next. My husband is still in the Navy, but he was going to law school at the time. So I took a job at the Georgetown University Medical Center helping to submit grants for cancer research funding,” she explained.
Working in higher education for an academic medical center, Riedel said, forced her to focus on questions of what’s next? Where is she going to with that experience? What did she want to be doing next? And as she began applying those questions to her own life, she began thinking critically about what she wanted to do moving forward in her career.
“It made me really think about where I wanted to be. After hearing my husband talk about law school and really researching what doors a legal degree could open, I decided this is what I want to do,” she said.
So, Riedel began looking at law schools. The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law not only provided she and her family with the chance to be closer to more of their family, but also offered a veteran friendly atmosphere. The university is a Pat Tillman Foundation University Partner, which was another deciding factor for Riedel.
Riedel first learned about the Pat Tillman Foundation while researching scholarship information to help support her dream of pursuing a career in the legal field. When she began to read more about what the foundation stood for and its mission, she said she was truly impressed with the caliber of people involved in the project and the sense of community the foundation fosters among its scholars.
“I applied just thinking this would be a really great opportunity and then I received a call that I was selected for an interview. I started doing research for the interview and talking to people and preparing and it hit me just how big of a deal the Tillman Scholarship really is. It’s not just a scholarship, it’s a community of people wanting to give back to the community, whether they’re still serving or not or if they’re a military spouse. The pool starts with 2,000 candidates and they select 60, and that’s all veterans, active duty servicemen and servicewomen, or military spouses, so these are amazing people. It’s such an honor to be selected,” Riedel explained.
“When I got the news that I had received the scholarship, I was just so incredibly happy that I think I just kneeled down on the ground just thinking to myself this is some of the best news I’ve ever received. It was a very proud moment.”
In addition to helping veterans and their spouses reach their leadership potential through generous scholarships, they also invite scholars to attend an annual leadership conference where they can connect and offer continued encouragement to one another as they work to reach their goals.
“The whole idea of the scholarship is to make your mark—to impact the future through your own goals and to give back to your community. It means having an idea of where you want the future to be and what you want to do to get everyone there,” Riedel said.
Looking toward the future, Riedel said she’s interested in using the skills she’s developed in law school and her time in the Navy to work in the area of space law, working on everything from de-conflicting traffic rules to the intricacies of resource ownership.
“My dream would be to get into space law. I think the future of the world is the multi-planetary civilization. The laws currently around space, while they exist, they’re not really specific and I don’t think they’re necessarily usable at this point,” she said.
“In the Navy, service members deal with a lot of international law and law of the sea, and a lot of that is what we’ll be doing in space. The ocean doesn’t really belong to anyone, so it’s the same idea with space. Right now, space belongs to humanity as a whole, so it will be interesting to see how that all plays out. “
Riedel credits her experience in the Navy with preparing her to balance the rigors of law school with family life. When she’s not studying or in class, she is at home with her kids, ages four and five, or volunteering at their schools.
“I just really have to manage my time,” she said of balancing homework, class, and family time. “Right now my oldest has strep throat and my youngest has a really high fever, so I’ve been up the last three nights in a row and then I got cold called on today. It’s another hardship, but it’s just a different hardship than other people are going through here in law school. It’s like everyone has their own house of cards and with mine the kids just make it a little more unpredictable sometimes.”
While this is only her first semester at Moritz, Riedel said she’s enjoyed the materials taught in class and learning about her classmates’ perspectives on different topics. “I enjoy the classes and the content a lot. I always like to be challenged in my way of thinking and changing my ideas and perceptions as I get new information, and I feel like that’s what law school is—building your whole self and ideas and perceptions, and learning to change those over time as you learn new things and receive new information,” she said.
For more information about the Pat Tillman Foundation and its mission, click here.