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Nontrad student to intern for State Senator, attend Vandy

4/30/2001
April 30, 2001

Jocelyn Mims, a December 2000 cum laude graduate of Austin Peay State University, is an intern for State Senator Rosalind Kurita in Nashville. She's also one of only 12 students to be an early selection for Vanderbilt's Law School, one of the top 20 law schools in the nation.

The accomplishment is particularly noteworthy, as Mims began pursuing a college degree some two decades after graduating from high school.

She became interested in the law after she had to fight insurance companies over an injury claim for nearly four years.

"I started reading statutes," she says. "I found I had a flair for understanding statutes and the law. I also took a writing class and found out I was a pretty good writer."

Realization of her talent for writing and research didn't immediately lead Mims to law school. She first joined a paralegal program at Louisiana State University, where teachers recognized her talent. "My teachers pulled me aside and said, 'You need to be a lawyer'," she recalls. "To do that, I needed a degree."

She came to APSU to get that degree when she and her husband returned to Middle Tennessee following a four-year absence. They not only liked the climate, they liked living in the area that put them about the same distance from her family in Pennsylvania and South Carolina and his family in Louisiana and Arkansas.

Though she's proud of her diploma, Mims says her time at Austin Peay gave her more than a credential. "I had professors who took a special interest in me," she says. "They worked with me one-on-one. I got more than a piece of paper."

She cites Austin Peay's liberal arts approach as a large factor in her success.

"When I got to Austin Peay, I had to take public speaking. The first assignment was talking 90 seconds about your most embarrassing moment. It was a terrifying experience, but by the end of that semester, I had a lot of confidence.

"Those core requirements are there for a reason," she adds.

Her interactions with faculty were also valuable. "My professors, Dr. David Kanervo, Dr. Dewey Browder, Dr. Richard Gildrie, Dr. Mark Michael and others, made me feel like a colleague, not a student," she says. "They respected what I had to say."

As an intern in the state capital, Mims is putting her hard-won confidence and interpersonal skills to good use. "I've worked on bills this session that put me in touch with people and organizations around the country, seeing how other states handled similar types of legislation and concerns."

In addition to giving her valuable legal experience, her internship has widened her view of the number of opportunities for attorneys in government. Will she run for office, as many attorneys have? "I doubt I will have a career in politics," she says. " I can't envision myself running for office. But I found out there are legal jobs I didn't know existed."