Women in Law and Justice event celebrates 50 years of women at Saint Mary’s by having alumni describe their experiences in the law field.
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
On April 13, 2021, Saint Mary’s Liberal Arts Bridge and CPDS held a Panel about Women in Law & Justice. The panel featured Saint Mary’s alumni who all have careers in Law fields The event was a part of the anniversary celebration of 50 years of women at Saint Mary’s College.
Fatima Silva, a Saint Mary’s Alumna from the class of 2004, facilitated the event. A politics major, Silva went on to become a criminal defense attorney. For the past four years, Silva has also appeared on the Investigation Discovery show Reasonable Doubt, where she looks at cases where families feel like their loved one was wrongfully convicted.
While describing her own career path from Saint Mary’s to hosting a true crime television show, Silva explained how she didn’t follow a linear career path but instead stumbled into opportunities after following her passion and her heart.
Silva said “When I was in college I had a clear plan and clear path I was going to follow. But that's not how life works, you're going to get a lot of curve balls thrown at you.”
Silva also emphasized the importance for women entering the law field to have a support network of other women. A support group of women is what Saint Mary’s alumni and 2001 valedictorian Stephanie Green has found at her job as Chief Strategist of Partnerships at The Women's Foundation of California.
“I feel like I have found my home. I started in 2016, and I knew that I had found my place. It took 16 years of doing things that all led me here,” Green said.
Green majored in English at Saint Mary’s, and discovered her passion for fundraising in the Women and Gender Studies Program (WAGS). She went on to pursue a graduate degree in WAGS at the University of Texas, Austin, one of the largest universities in the country. She credits Saint Mary’s seminar program for helping her get out of her comfort zone and excel in graduate studies and beyond.
“Seminar taught me that you don’t know everything other people have a lot to add to the conversation and how to talk for myself but also how to be humble,” she adds that the style of the classes was also very helpful. “The seminar classes are really graduate style classes.”
Another panel member, who like Green works within the law field but is not a practicing lawyer, is Evonne Silva. Silva graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2004 with a politics degree, and worked in a number of different organizations before getting her law degree. Like her former Saint Mary’s roommate Fatima Silva, Evonne Silva followed a delinear career path that gave her experience in many different communities. One experience Silva learned a lot from at Saint Mary’s was volunteering. She was challenged to learn from the community, by being a part of the community. Her belief that proximity to the issues better equip you to better solve the issues, helps her in her current work at Code for America, where she leads the Criminal Justice and workforce development work. One of the key initiatives she is working on, called Clear My Record, does work around the country to advance automatic record clearance. Although not currently practicing law, Silva believes she still works as a lawyer every day.
“I get asked often do I miss being a lawyer. The answer is that I am a lawyer everyday. I’m in conversations, I’m formulating questions to problems before me to try to make systemic changes is the way I tend to define it,” Silva said. “It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to practice in this way that is really nontraditional.”
The event concluded with Sarah Woolston, who has the most traditional law career out of all of the panelists. Woolston graduated from SMC in 2014 with a politics degree, and went on to receive her law degree from UC Davis school of law. Woolston currently works as an Associate at Matheny Sears Linkert & Jaime LLP practicing civil litigation. Woolston found her calling in law through a Jan Term she took her Junior year.
“I got the worst time and I wanted to take Harry Potter or the history of the bicycle or something fun but I ended up falling in love with my model UN class and we had a mock trial.”
The event was hosted by Dean of the School of Liberal Arts Sheila Hassell Hughes and the LAB Program who ended the event by having all of the women emphasize the skills and knowledge they gained at Saint Mary’s and the ways their time at Saint Mary’s has helped them in their career paths.
Melanie Moyer '22,