On October 21st, 2015, BDIC sponsored a lecture by two UMass Amherst graduates who shared their stories with BDIC students. Kate Cessna, 2008, and Erica Mattison, 2003, are both currently practicing law.
After graduation, Kate worked for several non-profits as well as in a public defender’s office. She also worked for the ACLU on a Death Penalty policy case which overturned the death penalty in the state of Connecticut. Kate currently works in Disability Law, and her clients are low income with psychiatric diagnoses . She discussed the client-based aspect of this type of law, as opposed to working for a large corporation. Kate was a BDIC major during her time at UMass, with a concentration in “Developing Democracy: Media Portrayal, Public Perception and Political Participation.” Kate spoke about how important public speaking is for all career paths and emphasized that there are always creative ways to make everything work out.
Erica graduated from UMass with a major in Psychology and a minor in Art History. After graduation, she worked as a Field Organizer in three winning Primary elections for John Kerry for President. After that, she worked at the Massachusetts State House as a legislative aide and then Executive Director of the Caucus of Women Legislators. While going to night school in the Masters in Public Administration program at Suffolk University, Erica advocated for the overhaul and expansion of recycling on campus. Her organizing and advocating caught the attention of University administrators and resulted in a position at the University, designing and implementing a recycling program. Erica was promoted to work as the University's first Sustainability Coordinator, and created an award-winning sustainability program. Since 2013, she has worked as an environmental protection lobbyist for the Environmental League of Massachusetts, a non-profit advocacy organization. Erica discussed with the students how she loves building community and stressed the importance of forming and maintaining relationships.
Erica and Kate spoke to students about ways to get ahead professionally while still at the university, such as joining as many organizations as possible and also touted the resources that UMass provides that enable individuals to form their own advocacy groups. Students were encouraged to advocate for themselves while here at UMass and the speakers stressed how this helps prepare students of all interests to succeed in whatever line of work they end up in. The event ended with a question and answer format in which students had a chance to talk with Erica and Kate about their interests.