It may be early in the fall semester, but Elizabeth Tobierre feels right at home.
Tobierre, who received a history degree from Duke University in 2014, has returned to Durham after spending the last two years in Memphis, Tenn., teaching third grade math and science with Teach for America. “I love Duke, I can’t express that enough,” Tobierre said.
She is among 222 students representing 119 undergraduate institutions in Duke Law’s JD Class of 2019. Tobierre is also one of 11 Duke undergrads who chose to continue their studies at the Law School.
“What I loved most about my Duke experience was all the opportunities I had been afforded. I discussed, engaged, and grappled with critical issues with likeminded and sometimes different-minded individuals. I knew that I could get those same kinds of opportunities at the Law School and have the same intellectual climate that Duke undergrad provided for me.”
One of Tobierre’s opportunities to travel came her junior year, when she went to South Africa with Duke Immerse, a semester-long program for undergraduates focusing on civil rights in the 20th century.
“While I know poverty and economic disparity here, and all across the world, it was very real there,” said Tobierre, who is originally from St. Croix. “I knew that, in talking to my professors and studying some of the issues there, that legal reform has a great potential to be a factor in social change. That’s really why I want to become a lawyer, to be part of that progress.”
It was that same desire to be part of social change that led to her participation with Teach for America.
“I loved teaching my rock stars; my students. Teaching became an avenue to positively influence them on a daily basis,” she said. "They shared with me their wishes for the world and their families. I bring those dreams to my legal studies. I know Duke Law will provide a path for me to achieve them.”
Noah Schwartz comes to Duke after four years of government service in Washington, D.C., the last three on the staff of the National Security Council (NSC).
Schwartz, who holds a political science degree from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, worked most recently as advisor to the NSCs deputy national security advisor for international economics.
“The office that I worked in reported jointly to the economic advisor and the national security advisor, so we dealt with a lot of issues at the intersection of economic policy and national security, said Schwartz. “What’s going on generally would change from, if not one week to the next, one morning to the next.”
His work included providing research and support on Obama Administration initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the United States’ sanctions on Russia. He also accompanied the president on his 2015 trip to Panama for the Summit of the Americas.
“Probably the best experience I had was being part of the delegation for President Obama’s trip to Panama last year,” Schwartz said. “To see everything that goes into a presidential trip abroad and be part of the team on the ground that’s executing it was very rewarding.”
The range of opportunities he found in public service before law school have inclined Schwartz to return to the capital as an attorney, he said.
“I’d eventually like to do something at the intersection of law and policy. I’m coming in with some specific interest in the law but I’m keeping an open mind about what parts of the law really interest me the most,” he said. “I’m eager to explore different things and see where it takes me.”
Victoria Aranda developed her talent in music and performance through her undergraduate studies, with the clear intention to going on to study law.
“I knew in high school I wanted to be a lawyer,” said Aranda, who earned a degree in Art and Performance from the University of Texas at Dallas. “But I love singing. I was trained in opera and music theater and I’m glad I got to do that a little longer.”
Aranda, who hopes to pursue a career in family law, also developed as a leader through her engagement with the Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity, for which she was chief operating officer and vice president.
“That was one of my favorite experiences in undergrad,” Aranda said. “These roles really helped me build my own interpersonal skills and allowed me to make decisions based on my own judgments and the ethical standards and values of our fraternity. We focused a lot on personal marketability, which is especially crucial for an organization like a sorority where our existence lies in our ability to recruit like-minded individuals who enhance our chapter's diversity and presence on campus.”
She also worked throughout her undergraduate years, taking on progressively increasing levels of responsibility in her university’s Office of Administration where she reported to the vice president.
“As the years progressed I was given more and more responsibility and was eventually expected to organize department events, handle public information requests, proofread school policies and business plans, reconcile cost centers, and even help hire full-time employees,” Aranda said.
At Duke Law, Aranda looks forward to participating in the guardian ad litem program and in the clinics.
Lance Beissner came to Duke Law from the United States Air Force, where he has been serving since graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2012.
“The Air Force is kind of a family tradition,” Beissner said. “Before I graduated from high school I’d lived in about eight spots. Now I think I’m at 12 or 13. It’s actually weird to stay anywhere longer than three years.”
Beissner was stationed in Laughlin, Texas, during pilot training and most recently ran missions out of the Joint Base in Charleston, S.C., flying a Boeing C-17A cargo transport jet. Many took him to Africa and the Middle East; he delivered humanitarian support in Gambia and Senegal during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and transported troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beissner said he chose Duke Law because of its culture and atmosphere.
“It seemed collegial and character focused,” Beissner said. “North Carolina is obviously a really military-friendly state, and it didn’t hurt that it’s not freezing here.”
Following his studies at Duke Law, Beissner will work as a member of the Judge Advocate Corps.
“Once I do get to specialize I hope to work up into the appellate courts and work more on the doctrinal issues in military law,” Beissner said. “At the moment, the Air Force is in the middle a culture shift. In the background of this are a number of issues Judge Advocates play a role in shaping, stretching from guiding commanders around through the fallout of a court martial, to advising policy makers on legal levers that can advance military and national security objectives.”