Sarah J. Dreisinger

My Mothers, My Mentors, My Sisters… My Strength

I have been surrounded by intelligent women for much of my life. Perhaps the most inspiring is my mother. An educator, administrator, and consummate professional, my mother has seen it all. From being a young teacher in the New York City public school system to receiving her doctorate just last year, she has come far. More than her academic and professional achievements, however, my mother is most proud of her motherly achievements. Despite her demanding schedule, family came first. My mother has taught me to value the time I spend with those I love. Although my mother has had little to do with my decision to enter into the legal profession, she has everything to do with my desire to be a strong female role model. If I can achieve just half of what she has, I will be satisfied.

The youngest in a family of five girls, I had the opportunity to learn from my sisters, benefiting from their mistakes and successes. Because they are so far from me in age (the eldest is thirty-eight, the youngest twenty-eight), I had the pleasure of having multiple mothers. My sisters have all been successful in their own ways. The eldest is a professional photographer who has published work in both online media and print. The next is the director of the pediatric emergency room in a NY hospital. My middle sister is a high school guidance counselor; right behind her is a successful journalist and college professor. As you might imagine, growing up around such driven and intelligent women was intimidating. I fought hard to fit in with my siblings; I was constantly reading the New York Times and watching MTV to keep up with them. Being around my sisters has only driven me further to succeed. I have seen hard work pay off and am eager to make my mark, much like they have.

As a sophomore double major in Philosophy and Political Science at SUNY Binghamton, I was a college intern at the Kings County District Attorney's office under the tutelage of executive assistant district attorney Stacey Jamieson. Working with Stacey helped me realize that a career in criminal law need not be filled with jail cells and murder trials. The Brooklyn DA runs an office promoting the prevention, and not merely punishment, of crime. Working with Stacey further enlightened me in that she represented all that I desired to be: a successful female attorney fulfilling professional and personal goals. As a wife and mother of two, Stacey showed it was possible to achieve professional success as a female attorney.

My experience with the DA led me to spend a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I chose Edinburgh because of their well-known program in legal studies. At Edinburgh I studied under yet another strong female educator, Dr. Sharon Cowan. Eager to learn about Scottish law, I enrolled in Dr. Cowan's course on Criminal Law. Although the class was large, her voice boomed throughout the lecture hall as she spread her knowledge. Dr. Cowan knew the answer to every question and gladly opened her doors to any challengers. A respected academic at the top of her field, Dr. Cowan had it all. It was as if no one dared to notice she was a woman engaging in an area dominated by men.

During the summer following my junior year I was awarded a fellowship in public service and worked at the Department of Environmental Conservation, Legal Affairs. My boss was a Regional Attorney by the name of Gail Hintz. Besides Gail, there were three other Regional Attorneys, all male. I once asked Gail about being the sole female attorney in the district and she responded, rather casually, that she had barely noticed. No one treated her differently because she performed on par, if not ahead, of her coworkers.

In my senior year at Binghamton I was lucky enough to take a course in Criminal Law with Professor Katri K. Sieberg. Since the publication of her study of criminal behavior, "Criminal Dilemmas," she had been recognized as a true leader within the Political Science department. It was not until I stepped into her classroom that I understood why. More than understanding the material, Professor Sieberg lived it. She worked tirelessly, updating her information and insisting on near perfection. One of the only female professors in her department, Professor Sieberg emulates what a female professor can be.

Over the course of my first year at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law I have learned under two fantastic female professors, albeit on opposite ends of the spectrum. An experienced teacher and practitioner, Professor Julie Interdonato excels at educating students on the art of legal writing. Her interest in her students is bar none; I have yet to encounter such a dedicated individual. Professor Maggie Lemos too excels at teaching. The past year was her first as a professor, but she took to the classroom as if a veteran. Although extremely intelligent, Professor Lemos conveys information with the greatest of ease, remaining open and approachable.

Over the course of my life I have been graced by the presence of strong women. Ranging in age and career, each has shown that being female is in no way a restriction. As I embark on my career in the legal profession, the lessons I have learned remain in my mind. The advice and guidance I received allowed me to come this far and I am confident in my ability to continue on my journey. I have learned that being a woman will not hold me back professionally and that it is indeed possible to be a wife, mother, and career woman. It is my hope to inspire girls interested in the legal profession. I strive to live up to the bar that has been set by those women who came before me and am confident that, if given the chance to do so, I will."

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