Three University of Michigan students met with the staff at Michigan Hillel and came up with their own Jewish pre-law club.
Being a student is a full-time job, no matter the university you attend. Finding time for extracurricular activities can be challenging with the amount of schoolwork that needs to be done. Yet, students feel that if they want to get ahead in school or in life, they must find the extra time to join this club or that club. There are additional challenges that students face along the way. Many clubs on campus are extremely competitive. Olivia Yates, a sophomore from Metro Detroit, said, “Most professional law organizations at University of Michigan are super selective.” Many students were finding themselves on the outside looking in when it came to getting into those clubs. So, what does one do?
Olivia teamed up with some of her other pre-law friends, Nicole Golenberg, a sophomore from Los Angeles, and Eve Wasvary, a sophomore from Metro Detroit, and they reached out to the University of Michigan Hillel.
“When one thinks about Hillel on campus, you think about Shabbat and High Holidays and Birthright Israel. You don’t think of a pre-law club or engineering club,” says Nicole.
But when you stop to see all the different groups and opportunities at Hillel, you realize there is something for everybody. Not only does Hillel have MedX, a Jewish pre-med group, and JEngA, a Jewish engineering group, they have groups for students interested in sustainability, philanthropy, sports and so much more. Hillel even has their own A Capella group and club hockey team.
With that in mind, the three students met with staff at Michigan Hillel and came up with a plan. They were going to start their own Jewish pre-law club. “Hillel has served as a place where we all immediately felt the sense of community we had been looking for, and we know it would serve as the perfect backbone for our club,” said Eve.
To create a club at Michigan Hillel, the group must present their club’s mission and goals to the Hillel Governing Board composed of six undergrad officers, three grad members and four community members. The board must approve the group with a simple majority vote.
Oliva, Nicole and Eve wasted no time working alongside staff at Michigan Hillel to develop a rock-solid presentation. The students created their mission statement: “Our mission is to cultivate a space for members of the Jewish community to learn, grow and enhance their knowledge in the field of law and public policy. We want to foster professional development, embody Jewish values, facilitate interpersonal connections and establish leadership opportunities.” Their presentation blew away the Governing Board. Their club, Jewish Pre-Law Association (JPLA) was approved unanimously.
Now the hard work was about to start. How do they grow their membership? What types of events should they consider? Guided by Michigan Hillel staff, the club planned interest meetings, created a logo and put together a leadership structure. To their amazement, more than 85 students showed interest.
Olivia was shocked, “We knew there were other students out there like us, but never imagined there were so many.” With a bona fide club, they started planning events to achieve their mission and goals. They also hosted information sessions to share more about their organization and hear from students what they were interested in getting out of this group.
For their first major event, they collaborated with the Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA), which is composed of University of Michigan Law students. JPLA invited law students from JLSA to speak on a Law Student Panel to undergrads about their experience applying to law school and now as students. The event was a great success. More than 40 students showed up to nosh, connect and learn.
Moving forward, the JPLA students continue to plan events and feel grateful to have found a home at Hillel. “We found it difficult to get involved on campus with other law groups and find our place on campus. Thankfully our Hillel was able to create the space needed to help our idea thrive,” shared Olivia.
If you are interested in learning more about this club or any other Michigan Hillel club, please reach out to email@example.com.
Sean Morgan is the Associate Director of U-M Hillel.