Alumna Abigail Mulligan puts M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture to work helping renters in need during COVID
Helping people facing eviction during the pandemic rocked Abigail Mulligan's world as she dealt with the in-person reality of what she'd studied in class.
Mulligan works as a legal assistant for the United Community Housing Coalition in Detroit, where the staff helps represent people in landlord-tenant court for free and deals with the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program (CERA), a federal program that helps people financially affected by COVID with rental payments.
"My job is incredibly humbling. I definitely thought I was fully formed, or at least almost fully formed, after getting two degrees, but this job has challenged me in so many ways," she said. "It is very rewarding and humbling to work directly with those who are the most vulnerable and who are put in unimaginable situations from not only the pandemic, but also the shortcomings of our social and economic systems. These problems like poverty, houselessness, and general exploitation exist solely in the abstract for many people, but they are not abstract. This is a very real and tangible reality for millions of Americans, and I feel honored to help even a few."
Mulligan earned a BSJ in Journalism-Strategic Communication from the Scripps College of Communication in 2020, along with a minor in sociology. She earned an M.A. in Law, Justice and Culture from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2021.
"I have always been a very curious person, which I think contributed greatly to both journalism and sociology. I think everyone has a right to know not only what is going on around them, but also to understand why," she said.
And now she's on the front lines of the pandemic, leading change in the world and helping improve life for people in need. Her passion is still about the "why," but now it's more about the "who."
"It is hard to talk about the rewarding aspects of this job. Not because it isn't rewarding, but because I have a hard time making myself the subject of this work,” she said. “While I love helping people, and it has been great to see change for the Detroiters I work with, it just isn't about me. Perhaps that is the most rewarding aspect — that the people I serve get the help they deserve and is long overdue, but they do not owe me anything, and I will eventually become some lady they spoke with however long ago while they continue on with their lives, housed and happy."
Q: How did the master's program in Law, Justice and Culture help you pursue your passions?
A: The Law, Justice and Culture master's program has made me a better student, community member, paralegal, and academic. It allowed me to become a published author and do research in areas I am passionate about as well as expanding my academic horizons through its interdisciplinary approach. I was able to take classes from sociological, political and anthropological perspectives that challenged my set habits and honed my critical thinking skills. I also became more familiar with the rigors of academic research at the graduate level, which was an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience. Special thanks to my adviser, Dr. Haley Duschinski, and my committee, Dr. Andrew Ross and Dr. Kirstine Taylor.
I am considering more higher education, so this program helped me get a better idea of who I am and how I fit in a graduate academic setting. Finally, having a master's degree in this field has given me insight into my day-to-day work and allows me to better support my clients and the greater Detroit community.
Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?
A: It is so hard to choose! In undergrad, my passion for journalism and the law was really instilled by David Forster, who was my GA for J2311 lab, and Dr. Eddith Dashiell. Both of these professors challenged me to be better and to work harder. It is hard to put into words my gratitude for their patience and support while I was taking both of their classes.
For grad school, I truly can't choose which class or professor I liked the most. As I previously mentioned, that is one of the perks of an interdisciplinary program. Each class and professor has so much to offer because the material is so different. I highly recommend Dr. John Gilliom's surveillance class, Dr. Bruce Hoffman's criminology class, and Dr. Taylor's and Dr. Kathleen Sullivan's political science classes.
I also absolutely enjoyed legal research and writing class with Larry Hayman Esq. Ever since I was young my mom told me I was going to be a lawyer (whether that's because she believed in me or because I run my mouth too much, we'll never know), and frankly, I didn't want to like this class as much as I did. However, the coursework and rigor of this class made me realize that maybe my mom was right
Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO — that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?
A: I never had a singular experience where a light bulb went off. Throughout my college experience, I constantly made mistakes and had small wins that built up over time to help me develop myself as a student and eventually a scholar. All of these experiences shifted who I thought I was into who I am and continue to do so.
Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?
A: Farmer's markets with my friends. Beach days at Strouds. Homecoming parades, late night editing sessions and, of course, O'Betty's cheesy fries.
Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?
A: I would tell a new OHIO student to get out and explore the greater Athens community and Appalachian Ohio. While I owe a lot to OHIO, there is a lot more in this region than just the university.