Undergrad Student Spotlight: Makaela Stevens

Makaela Stevens (BA ’22)

If you’d asked me back in 2015 where I’d be in five years, I might have told you that I’d be attending Kansas State University, and I would’ve been correct. I might have told you that I’d be an English major, and I would’ve been right again. But if you’d asked me this question in 2015, I could never have speculated that 2020 would see me finishing my second summer in a legal internship, studying for and completing the LSAT exam, and least of all, making plans to attend the University of Kansas after only three years of living my college dream as a Wildcat.

As a senior in high school, I didn’t have much of a plan regarding my future career. Every conversation with my parents seemed to lead back to what I wanted to do with my life, and these conversations typically ended with my dad naming a profession that I would immediately shut down for one reason or another. One night, this idea was that I should become an attorney. My mom and I both gave him exasperated looks, asking, “Do you even know your daughter?” It seemed like a strange suggestion at the time, but as it turns out, Dad was onto something.

Not too long after this conversation, I found myself reluctantly sitting through a class titled “So you want to be a lawyer?” at 4-H Discovery Days, thanks to a late registration on my part and a lack of remaining available classes. To add to this, a presentation that an attorney gave to my high school government class piqued my interest, and I began to realize that something was pushing me along toward a career in the law.

Sometime during the middle of my senior year, I received an email from KU talking about something called the LEAD Program. LEAD stands for “Legal Education Accelerated Degree,” and I learned that if I was accepted into this program, I could attend the KU School of Law after only three years of undergraduate study at Kansas State, allowing me to earn my bachelor’s degree and my law degree in a total of six years, instead of the usual seven. LEAD would also secure my acceptance to KU Law, as long as I maintained a specific GPA through my undergraduate years and earned a certain score on my LSAT exam. It seemed like a great opportunity, so I took a leap of faith and applied, and I was accepted into the LEAD Program before I’d graduated high school.

LEAD at Kansas State is new to campus as of the past few years, so mine is one of the pioneering classes of K-State LEAD students who will attend KU Law after only three years of undergraduate study. Since joining the LEAD Program, I’ve had the opportunity to network closely with professors and staff at KU Law, attend mock law classes and visits to the school, and connect with other Pre-Law students who will be members of my class at KU.

When people learn that I’m a member of the LEAD Program, they often ask me how I was able to plan so far in advance, and if I was certain that I wanted to be a lawyer. I was far from certain, but I knew two things: one, that adding the “Pre-Law” tag to my major did not require any specific classes or bind me to attending law school, and two, that I loved to read and write. As a Pre-Law and LEAD student, I could choose for my bachelor’s degree any area of study that interested me, so I chose English Literature.

By pursuing a degree in English Literature, I’ve had the opportunity to read and write about countless works that I have loved and enjoyed, and this has enhanced my knowledge on many topics, including history, government, culture, and art. There are, inevitably, always texts that I find dense and uninteresting, but my English professors have guided me in reading and analyzing topics that are difficult to comprehend, as well as standing up and discussing these topics aloud with my classmates. I’m certain that these will prove to be incredibly important skills when I begin law school. Studying English Literature has allowed me to learn in depth about concepts that interest me, while also training me through this learning process in skills that I can take with me to my professional education and career.

In the Fall of 2021, I will be attending the KU School of Law as a LEAD Student, and I will officially earn my bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Kansas State following my first year of law school. I will almost certainly be the youngest student in my class, but I have no doubt that I will be prepared to handle anything that law school throws my way, thanks to everything I’ve learned through the LEAD Program and the English Department at Kansas State.

Makaela Stevens (BA ’22)

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