The Beauty of a Liberal Arts Education
By Heather Cobun ‘10
I like to tell people that I tripped and fell into being a political science major. I came to Susquehanna as a freshman committed to preparing for a career in print journalism. I began writing for The Crusader immediately, interned at my local paper the summer after freshman year, and during my sophomore year I served as an assistant section editor. Before I left campus that year, however, I followed through with an idea I had been kicking around: I added a second major in political science.
I had taken coursework as electives or to satisfy Honors Program requirements, and through these courses I began to understand that my interest was more than passing. I sat down with a course catalog and mapped out my remaining time at Susquehanna with the second major in mind. I found that not only was it possible, but I would regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity.
During my junior year, the fall of which was spent in Washington, D.C., as a part of the Lutheran College Washington Semester, my father began asking, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a lawyer?” We began joking about attending law school, but within six months I was buying LSAT prep books. Around this time I decided that my senior research for political science would combine my two majors and explore media law. I worked with Michele DeMary, associate professor of political science and prelaw adviser, to explore how bloggers and new media have affected recent case law for my final paper, Protecting Every Journalist: The Case for an Intent-Based Universal Shield Law. I looked at 13 cases from the past 20 years and determined that technology is influencing the way journalists operate, and where people turn for their news, so much so that shield laws—those that protect journalists’ confidential sources—should look to the intent of the writer rather than their actual job description.
Somehow, two years after deciding to become a political science major and one year after deciding to apply to law school, I found myself presenting my research at the University of Montana in Missoula, and then fielding media law questions from a small group of Susquehanna science majors. We were at the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and they had spent the morning presenting posters summarizing their research while I was giving an oral presentation about mine. Over lunch, one science major asked me to explain my thesis again. Then another asked a question about libel law and journalists being sued. I fielded questions for almost 10 minutes, both flattered and touched that they took such an active interest in my research and turned to me to answer their questions. It was a uniquely Susquehanna experience that I will always remember.
As a freshman, it never occurred to me that I would have a second major, let alone spend my senior year logging 25-hour weeks as the managing editor of the newspaper, and writing and presenting a major research paper for political science. Susquehanna gave me wonderful opportunities to develop skills as a journalist—a career path that I have not written off yet. However, Susquehanna also gave me the opportunity to turn my interest in history and government into a full-fledged passion, and because of the engaging, supportive faculty and the opportunities I received, I am now bound for the University of Baltimore School of Law.