Miranda West's journey includes two trips to Northern Ireland, better understanding of law and society
Miranda West has been a paralegal for 22 years, but earning an M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture online has given her a heightened understanding of the law in relation to society.
"During my time at OHIO, I was encouraged to broaden my thinking, step out of my comfort zone, and approach people, places and opportunities I never would have before. That has changed my entire approach to how I perform my role as a paralegal. I have a more meaningful career because of my time at OHIO," West said.
As she prepares to graduate this spring, West reflected, "I hesitate to say that one ever really ‘leaves’ Ohio University, as every single encounter with students, administration, or faculty and all of the knowledge I have gained while being here has informed everything about my career since then."
How did West navigate her non-traditional path, juggling work with family, expectations and self-doubt? And why will study abroad to Northern Ireland be with her forever?
Q&A with Miranda West
Q: What path did you follow to get where you are today?
A: My path was definitely an unconventional one. I graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assisting/Paralegal from Columbus State in 2001 and worked as a paralegal for 14 years before pursuing further advanced education. I had the privilege of working in the Office of Legal Affairs here at OHIO for six years, during which time I was encouraged and mentored by my colleagues to pursue my bachelor’s degree and to continue my studies as a graduate student. I obtained a Bachelor of Specialized Studies (law/legal studies) from University College in 2017 and am finishing an M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture this spring from the College of Arts and Sciences.
I had the opportunity to study abroad in Northern Ireland twice, once as an undergrad and once as a graduate student. In 2020, I passed the Ohio State Bar Association Certified Paralegal after almost 20 years in the profession. I have worked in various settings as a paralegal, ranging from solo practitioner firm where it was just me and the attorney to an in-house position working with a team of 30-plus attorneys and other legal staff at a banking institution. I am currently a paralegal with the Commercial Litigation group at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP in Columbus, Ohio.
Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?
A: Truthfully, all of the professors I had while pursuing my degrees made an impact on me. In my undergraduate course work, Dr. Paul Jones and Dr. Patricia Gunn were two faculty members who really brought a clarity to realities which I had not previously considered on a deeper level. As a graduate student, Dr. Haley Duschinski, Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Larry Hayman, Esq., and Dr. Kathleen Sullivan pushed me (in a good way) beyond all of the limitations I had set up for myself. For both undergrad and graduate, Dr. Kevin Uhalde demonstrated what it means to really love a subject and how to bring that to life for students.
When I began as adjunct faculty at Capital University Law School’s paralegal program teaching Intro to Paralegal Studies and Civil Litigation, I channeled some part of each of them as I prepared my lectures, projects and experiences for my own students. As a paralegal, I now have a heightened understanding of the law in relation to society which has impacted my interactions with judges, lawyers, courts and clients as well as my work product.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your faculty?
A: Most definitely. Particularly after experiencing Northern Ireland as a pandemic ascended in 2020, Dr. Dushinski, Dr. Hoffman, Larry Hayman, and our coordinator for the trip and Center for Law, Justice and Culture alum Sam Rommel ('15BA, '20MA) continue to keep in touch, discussing the most recent developments in Northern Ireland. That was literally an experience I will be telling my grandchildren about and will probably still be texting NI updates in our group chat in the retirement home.
Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?
A: This only happened a couple of days ago, really. I submitted my full Master's Research Essay draft and got really good feedback from the multiple edits I had made in the prior weeks (thank you, Dr. Sullivan!). It finally hit me that this was actually coming to an end. And that I had actually done it.
Q: What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?
A: Overcoming myself was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. As a nontraditional student, as a professional, as a woman, wife, and mother, I had to constantly adjust my expectations and fight back imposter syndrome. This master's research essay has been particularly challenging because even though I have been researching and writing on this subject throughout the program, I really had to get out of my head and just let it happen. I also did this program over the course of four years, so seeing four cohorts come and go while I was still working on mine was sometimes frustrating (see, adjustment of expectations). But, it is finally my turn!
Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?
A: Studying abroad in Northern Ireland not once but twice definitely tops the list. I still keep in touch with many of the students from those trips and it’s really great to see all of their achievements and accomplishments as they move on from OHIO. I will also never forget walking across College Green for the first time to attend class with more "traditional" students. I was so nervous I would not fit in, that I would not succeed, etc. etc. Looking back on that, and seeing how far I have come, it just gives me the courage to see what else I can do.
Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?
A: There isn’t just one thing, really. Just get out there and mingle – in whatever way is appropriate for you. There are so many opportunities for what ever flavor you might be interested in; all you need to do is show up and the universe will take it from there. Trust me.