By Jackie Hennessy '13
Ashley Berger ’13 (legal studies/history) claims to have entered UMass as the average freshman. However, as she progressed through her undergraduate career, Berger’s determined attitude and drive to succeed made her a standout.
Incredibly ambitious, Berger’s motivation to study law began at home “I think I started to realize what law is during my parents’ divorce,” Berger reflects, noting that she grew up in a single parent household with her mom and younger brother. “I think that environment made me the person I am today.”
While Berger has enjoyed a range of classes across many different topics, she claims legal studies to be her passion. “I have loved every minute of being in the legal studies program. As an undergraduate assistant I get to connect with faculty and see behind the scenes.” As for the future, Berger dreams of becoming a lawyer but first plans to become a paralegal or legal assistant in order to save up enough money to put herself through law school.
Berger’s enthusiasm for law only intensified while working as a judicial intern with Judge Judd Carhart during her junior year. During this period, Berger witnessed many different types of court cases, including a high-profile murder trial. A longtime fan of the crime and law shows on television, Berger says it was incredible to see something like this unfold in real life. The experience confirmed her aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “This case opened up the possibility that criminal law might be something to consider in law school.”
Extracurricular experiences have also been growth opportunities for Berger. She has been a part of the Daily Collegian since freshman year. Beginning as writer for the News and Arts print sections of the paper, she was promoted to recruiting manager last year. In this position she is an outreach contact for faculty and advisors as well as students who may be interested in joining the paper. Berger was also a volunteer note-taker for Disability Services on campus. “This experience hit close to home. My mom is disabled, so it meant a lot to be able to back to someone with a learning disability.”
Scholarships, along with the money she earns waitressing and as a student employee, make attending UMass possible for Berger. So last year, when she was awarded the SBS Opportunity Scholarship, funded by SBS alumni for students of high academic standing, “I was shocked, humbled, and thrilled to have been chosen. I never thought I’d get picked out of so many SBS students who apply. It was a great honor and it means a lot.”
For students at or coming to UMass, Berger offers some great insights. “We’re an amazing school filled with talented students and incredible faculty. UMass is what you make of it. Make it a point to reach out to your professors. Don’t be shy. If you want to do something, go for it. If you take the chance, it may just turn out to be the best thing you ever could have found.”
Jackie Hennessy '13, who is majoring in communication, is an intern in the SBS Dean's Office and a Communication Peer Advisor.