April 27, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Happy Beginnings | Love of Advocacy Led Tharp to M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture, Law School

Gabrielle Tharp in Northern Ireland, portrait

Gabrielle Tharp in Northern Ireland

The Happy Beginnings series features College of Arts & Sciences graduates who are getting started in careers, graduate school, and service.

Gabrielle Tharp graduates with an M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture in Spring 2020 and will begin law school at The University of Colorado Law School in the fall.

Tharp came to Athens in 2016, majoring in Political Science and History, with a minor in World Religions and a certificate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Tharp began pursuing the master’s in Law, Justice & Culture at Ohio University.

Ohio University was always her dream.

“I absolutely fell in love with Ohio University after my first visit. I had always been adamant that I wanted to go to college far from my hometown (OU is just 45 minutes from it), but I fell in love with Athens and the people. I actually dragged my mom on three separate visits because I liked the campus so much,” she says.

Involvement & Activism on Campus

During her undergraduate degree, Tharp served on the executive board and competed with the Ohio University Mock Trial Team for three years. She also served as Director of the Ohio University Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and as a member of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity.

It was these organizations, alongside select political science classes, that helped Tharp find her specific interest in law. She also spent two years as the Pre-Law Associate in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture, a PACE position that led her to help organize pre-law events around campus, including Ohio University’s Pre-Law Day and Law Fair. In 2017, she served as a program assistant to the Summer Law & Trial Institute, which gave her the opportunity to teach and mentor high school students from Appalachia.

However, Tharp would not have imagined her lasting impact on the pre-law community when she first arrived in Athens.

“I started at OU as a Biology Pre-Med major and was not happy. I decided in my sophomore year to take a variety of classes to see if there was a better fit. One of the classes I signed up for was Dr. Kathleen Sullivan’s Politics of Law class, and I was immediately in love with the topic. I tried out for and made the Mock Trial team, and my interests and activism developed from there.”

Tharp’s love for advocacy and law propelled her forward into Ohio University’s M.A. of Law, Justice & Culture program. Tharp chose this year-long degree to challenge her as she engages with the intersection of law, politics, society, history and identity.

“I love being a master’s student. I enjoy that I am being pushed academically, and that I get to have high-level discussions with other genuinely interested M.A. students. Right now I am finishing up my master’s research essay on treaties between the early U.S. government and Shawnee Native Americans in the Ohio River Valley, so I have been pretty into Native American/indigenous rights in the last few months. Additionally, although this is not the case in my MRE, I usually try and work women’s and LGBTQ+ issues into my work.”

Finishing Up Online

Tharp will be completing the last semester of her master’s degree online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this was not her plan, Tharp is making the most of the transition and is balancing her academic responsibilities while still prioritizing self-care.

“Thanks to COVID-19 there isn’t really anything about my days that feels “typical” at this point. That being said I try to have plenty of self care while also finishing my school work. I recently moved to Colorado, so sometimes the best therapy is stepping outside for a moment to look at the mountains.”

Tharp posits that her extensive time at Ohio University has prepared her for the next stage of her life.

“I will be attending law school in the fall at University of Colorado Boulder in the fall, and while I am so excited, I can’t imagine getting an undergraduate degree anywhere other than Ohio University. My undergraduate coursework let me pursue just about anything I was interested in or passionate about, and my master’s coursework has prepared me for denser and longer readings, as well as graduate-level discussions.

“The organizations at OU helped me make amazing friends and provided me with totally unique leadership experience. Mock Trial especially gave me confidence in public speaking and developing critical thinking skills. The only downside is that I now have to live with the weighty knowledge that most people misuse hearsay and speculation (especially in legal procedure TV shows).”

Now that Tharp has been through the law school application process, she is eager to share what she learned with Ohio University students. While she is adamant about the value of high grades and utilization of resources, Tharp also reminds students to appreciate their time as undergraduates.

‘Do Something You Are Passionate About’

“First and foremost I enjoyed my undergrad. Of course it is important to prepare for the next step, but don’t forget that nothing will mirror your undergrad experience, so do something you are passionate about!”

However, Tharp reminds all students considering law, “Use your resources! OU has so many and not nearly enough students take advantage of them. CLJC Pre-Law Advisor Larry Hayman and the CLJC in particular are amazing for students interested in law. If you reach out, you will be amazed at how much professors and other staff genuinely want to help you and see you reach your goals. Also, follow your passion. It makes college and life a lot more enjoyable.”

When asked to reflect on her favorite Ohio University memory, Tharp shared one of her most recent study-abroad opportunities. Over spring break this year, Tharp had the opportunity to go on the Human Rights, Law & Justice in Northern Ireland Spring Break Study Abroad trip with Dr. Haley Duschinski.

“This is really recent, but studying abroad in Northern Ireland a few weeks ago was one of the most incredible experiences I have had. I have studied abroad in India and Italy, but the Northern Ireland experience is totally unique. The whole group was great and I am already plotting a trip back to the British Isles to keep exploring!”

Tharp has taken advantage of a large portion of what Ohio University has to offer. From her involvement in student organizations, to her research as a Master’s student, Tharp did not let one moment go to waste. Despite all the changes in her life due to graduation and a pandemic, Tharp reminds us all to, “Take care of yourself and enjoy your time at OU!”

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