Alum fights for justice at University of Virginia School of Law
University of Indianapolis graduate Maria Downham ‘16 (political science and psychology) recently played an important role in securing justice for DeAndre Harris, who was attacked during the 2017 “Unite the Right” protests.
A first-year University of Virginia School of Law student, Downham talked to us about how her experiences on the UIndy campus helped her prepare for a career as a public servant.
How did the political science program help you prepare for the work you’re doing now?
“I was able to take elective courses that were law-related, such as Constitutional Law and Common Law. In these classes we read and briefed Supreme Court cases and that is the work I do to prepare for class each day now in law school. Also, part of the each class was doing a mock trial and that sparked my interest in litigation. I am now involved on the Mock Trial team at UVA.”
What skills did UIndy teach you and how are those skills helping you now?
“UIndy taught me how to read critically and reason through things. The curriculum prepared me well for law school because I took classes in a variety of areas. My psychology courses taught me about the processes of the brain, how individuals think about problems, and abnormal psychological conditions. In addition to these “hard skills,” UIndy prepared me well for law school by teaching me to have the confidence to get involved in things that I’m interested in. The Honors College at UIndy allowed me the opportunity to create my own mock trial as my honors project and this experience gave me a strong background, which helped me in UVA’s Mock Trial Tournament this year.”
Who were your mentors at UIndy and how did they help you?
“Dr. Maryam Stevenson was my pre-law advisor at UIndy, taught the law classes that I took, and was the faculty advisor for my honors project. What she taught me in the classroom, her guidance outside of the classroom, and her support were all crucial parts of my education, personal, and professional growth. In addition, I had the opportunity to work closely with President Manuel by serving as a Presidential Ambassador. The opportunity to work with him was also a large part of my professional growth. Finally, all of the professors in the History and Political Science Department were invaluable to my education and in preparing me for law school.”
What are your plans after law school?
“I’m not sure what I will pursue after law school, but I do know that I am interested in pursuing a career in criminal law. This summer I will be working at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia as well as working as a Research Assistant for the Innocence Project at UVA.”