Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
VALPARAISO — Vanita M. Banks advised 160 Valparaiso University School of Law graduates Saturday not to let the near collapse of the world’s economy dishearten them. “Don’t be preoccupied with planning your whole career,” said the 1980 VU School of Law graduate, “just your next step.”
For some, dealing with the next step was literal. “I just don’t want to fall in these big shoes,” said Tracey Farnsworth, 27, of Crown Point, who was announced as cum laude Saturday and who plans to work in corporate law.
“It’s our best attempt to look slim in these big gowns,” explained Stephanie Gonzalez, 26, also of Crown Point, referring to her tottering spikes. “I don’t know if it’s working.”
“I’m sans heels today,” said a glib Matthew Gillikin, 27, of Chesterton, who looks forward to a career in sports law.
Splashy spikes aside, the graduates will soon be facing bar exams and the search for employment. “It’s a tough job market,” Gillikin said.
Banks, who advocates for teenage driving safety on Capitol Hill, reminded the group that the law is a calling, not just a profession. “Valparaiso offers students something unique — skilled and ethical lawyers committed to service and the public good.”
Nicole Giorgi, of St. John, plans on such service. The granddaughter of former Lake Superior Court Judge Andrew Giorgi, she will be the fifth in the family to practice law. “I’m interested in working in the prosecutor’s office,” she said.
For Amelia Chizwala Peterson, the road to service will eventually lead back to her native Zimbabwe. “I’m leaving to Colorado for a year in environmental law and policy,” she said. “I hope to work with my government to improve environmental justice.”
Those coming to law school with experience in the field seemed less worried. Carly Salczynski, 25, of Griffith, who works for the Chicago Sky women’s basketball team in marketing, is a few steps ahead in her vision. “I definitely want to work in sports and be a GM (general manager) one day,” she said.
Vietnam-era veteran Art Dotterweich, 57, plans to return to Florida with his law degree. His career has been marked by two associate degrees, a bachelor’s degree in business management, as well as jobs in law enforcement and in technology.
“I used up my G.I. Bill a long time ago,” he said. After a layoff, he came to Valparaiso University because he had heard that it had a good law school. “My dad said, ‘If you’re going to follow your dream, now’s the time.’”