MLaw Class of 2019: 'Full of interestingness'

By Lori Atherton
U-M Law

During her two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer, Emily Van Dam taught physics at a rural secondary school, worked on projects related to HIV and malaria, and helped install a water catchment system at the school where she taught. With a master’s degree in civil engineering, she wanted to combine her technical skills with public service in a “creative way.” She hopes to put her JD to use in a similar fashion,  in environmental law or a related field.

Jonathan Tietz has a PhD in chemistry and previously was a research fellow in chemical biology at the University of Illinois. He’s interested in “issues at the interface of science, society, and public health,” particularly the antibiotic resistance crisis and genomics-guided medicine, which involve complex legal, economic, and political issues. He entered law school “in order to work at the science/law interface with these broad applications in mind.”

Both Tietz and Van Dam are first-year students at Michigan Law and among the 305 members of the Class of 2019, which boasts an average LSAT score of 168 and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.78, the highest ever for an entering class, according to Sarah Zearfoss, ‘92, senior assistant dean for admissions, financial aid, and career planning.

STEM majors, such as Tietz and Van Dam, account for 11.5 percent of the class, while other popular majors include political science, history, economics, English, and international relations.

The 1Ls, whom Zearfoss described as being “full of charm and interestingness,” have various backgrounds, with many having worked in politics. Among those is one student who co-founded the Draft Rob Portman super PAC and another who worked for Portman, ‘84, for a year. Others worked with the media, including one who was a documentary researcher for PBS and another who was in advertising operations for The Onion.

Other jobs included working as an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics; with the health care fraud strike force at the Department of Justice; with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom project; as a financial analyst at the United States Postal Service; and with FEMA Corps in Mississippi. One student was a project manager at Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending while another was an emotional and behavioral disorder paraeducator.

Other students, such as Elliott Gluck, focused on children’s rights. He taught sixth-grade English and social studies through Teach For America before joining the child advocacy organization First Focus. His reason for attending MLaw?

“I believe that the best path forward in the fight to ensure that every child has the academic resources they need to thrive is through the courts,” he said.

Other notable facts about the Class of 2019:

• The students are 46 percent female and 54 percent male.

• 28 percent are racial minorities.

• 24 are AmeriCorps alumni, nine were in Teach For America, two were in the Peace Corps, three are military veterans, five were Fulbright Scholars, one was a Soros Fellow, and one was a Truman Scholar.

• 10 foreign countries are represented in the JD class: Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Iran, New Zealand, Panama, Russia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

• They come from 37 states (19 percent are from Michigan) and Washington, D.C.

• They attended 155 undergraduate institutions.