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Meet Niayla-Dia Murray

Drexel Political Science and Philosophy Student Niayla-Dia Murray

Degree: BA Political Science & BA Philosophy ’20
Concentration: Philosophy & Law
Co-op: Paralegal Assistant/Researcher, Chimicles Schwartz Kriner and Donaldson-Smith
Extracurricular activities: Vice President of the Drexel Mock Trial Association
Awards: Liberty Scholar, Jamie B. Fields Memorial Scholarship, Her Campus 22 Under 22 Awardee

How did you initially choose your philosophy major? And why did you choose to add a political science major?
I knew in the long run I wanted to go to law school, but I did not want my undergraduate studies to completely revolve around that goal. Prior to college, I deemed myself a good problem solver and a very curious person. I wanted a field of study that would fuel my curious nature — one that would allow me to ask as many questions as I’d like, but also apply what I’m learning to modern day issues. After researching majors, I decided to major in philosophy and see if I liked it. It turns out that I absolutely love my major.

Ironically, my major did become very legal focused, but initially I chose to pursue philosophy due to the major’s focus on critical thinking. It has provided me skills that I apply to my everyday life and encounters.

During my freshman year, I became interested in the political structure of the United States, which led me to explore political science as a major as well. Political science adds a research component to my learning experience. It provides me not only the ability to enhance my writing skills, but also the ability to pursue numerous research topics — in relation to the political systems of the United States, and also those I encounter in my everyday life.

How did you become interested in pursuing a law career?
During high school, I was once advised to find one thing I was good at and make that into a career. While I always was very interested in law, I was not completely sure if it was something I was “good” at. I decided to join my high school’s mock trial team to see if I’d enjoy developing case theories and speaking publicly. I instantly fell in love with mock trial — and while it isn’t the same as being an actual lawyer, to 16 year-old me, it was close enough.

As I gained lawyers as mentors and began to understand the realities of the job, I found that the legal career lacked diversity in numerous different ways. I’d love to be a point of representation for other students and the future clients I will work with. I think trust is built more easily when you have someone who is similar to you “fighting for you,” in your corner. I’d like future clients to see there is a growing interest in the field from people from diverse backgrounds and thoughts, and that the legal system is not necessarily something to be afraid of.

Which element of your Drexel experience do you most identify with, and why?
I lost at the American Mock Trial Association’s regionals my first year on the Drexel Mock Trial Team, and it ended up as an amazing experience. I along with my teammates — a majority were freshman as well — were not prepared to go against the level of talent we saw at our first regionals (unlike our veteran members, who were extremely talented and prepared). We were more focused on having fun, and didn’t let the pressure of winning or losing take over our experience. To this day, my teammates who were on that freshman team still joke about the funny things we did and saw. I never thought that losing could be so fun, but since we did lose, we bonded and have been pretty incredible friends to one another.

Tell us about your co-op experiences. How did they impact your career aspirations or educational journey?
My co-op was at Chimicles Schwartz Kriner and Donaldson-Smith as a paralegal assistant/researcher. I think it says a lot that I still work there part time! The firm itself is a leading national class action firm that specializes in prosecuting federal and state class action litigation.

The work I completed was not typical “busy work” given to an intern, but work that was meaningful and going to be used in some way. One of my duties was collecting research. I was treated as a valued member of the team, and, in talking to professionals across the nation involved in our case, my job added a “human aspect” to the work being done. My co-op experience only solidified my desire to pursue a career in law.

Can you tell us about your work with the National Constitution Center?
The National Constitution Center’s (NCC) “Policing in a More Perfect Union” program first began when I was a sophomore in high school. During that time, I participated in the program as a “student mediator,” facilitating the conversation between police officers and myself about policing policy issues.

When I graduated high school, I was very committed to the program and became an intern working on the program. I aided in helping to “polish” the students’ abilities to have productive conversations with police officers. The ability to listen and then respond frequently goes unnurtured and can lead to misunderstandings between two people. It was fulfilling to see students from my alma mater use those skills, especially given the dynamic between the two groups (the youth of color do not always have the best experience with police officers, and the police officers may not have the best perceptions of high school students). It has been very fulfilling to be part of it!

What are your goals for the rest of your time at Drexel, and for post-graduation?
Currently, I am preparing to take the LSAT and submit my law school applications for the fall of 2020. After graduation, I see myself attending law school, ideally without a gap year. While I’m at Drexel, I’d like to continue to network with people and be a resource for younger students; I plan to begin building relationships with younger students who are interested in the path I have taken and aiding them to the best of my ability!