Meet Sanjulaa Chanolian

Photo Credit: Sanjulaa Chanolian
Wed, 09/06/2023 - 11:37

Majors: Philosophy, political science
Minor: Human rights and humanitarian affairs
Hometown: Omaha, NE

Why did you select your majors and minor?
In all honesty, when I stepped onto campus as a philosophy major, I had no idea what to expect. When people asked me what I would do with a degree in philosophy, I always answered, “Google said it would prepare me well for law school.” Fortunately, Google was correct. Studying philosophy has been a life-changing experience. The university provides many courses that can be tied to philosophy. That is the beauty of the major - it can connect to almost every area of study. From medical ethics to political philosophy, there is a wide range of topics to be interested in.

A few weeks into the semester, I decided to also minor in political science. I always had a strong interest in politics, but with my first year being such a vital election cycle (2020), I was enthralled by local and national political news. By sophomore year, I had declared a double major in both political science and philosophy with a minor in human rights and humanitarian affairs. Connecting course content from one area of study to another was fascinating. I am now a senior applying for law school, and I do not think there was a better combination for my degree. The courses I took for my majors and minor have challenged me in ways that I believe have prepared me well to tackle the coursework I will have in law school.

What is your favorite course you have taken from your programs and why?
With so many interesting courses offered at UNL, it would be too difficult to pick a single course as my favorite. For philosophy, Medical Ethics (PHIL213) with Dr. Bronfman and Philosophy of Law (PHIL230) with Dr. Brunero are two courses that challenged how I view the world. Both courses focus on important topics, such as abortion and the American Justice System, and have helped widen my perspective on different issues. I enjoy learning different ways to reason about topics, and these two courses helped me understand how to justify my beliefs on different social and political issues.

For political science, my favorite classes were the capstone titled Democracy and Citizenship (POLS400) with Dr. Theiss-Morse and Civil Liberties (POLS470) with Dr. Beahm. Both of these courses involved thinking critically about real-world scenarios. What does it mean to be a citizen of a state? What does the freedom of speech actually entail? Both of these professors were also very engaging and knowledgeable about the material they taught. I looked forward to attending every lecture and class with these professors.

Have you had an internship or job?
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to work part-time at Wolzen Law Office, an immigration law office in downtown Lincoln.

When my work day begins, the first thing I do is review emails and messages from clients. As a law clerk, my primary responsibility at work is to assemble packets we submit on behalf of our clients to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This task requires meticulous attention to detail. I have worked on every step of this project, from sending our general questionnaires to sending clients final copies of their petitions. In addition to assembling packets, I also have the opportunity to do some research to help the attorneys decide the best course of action to take to solve a specific issue. This involves conducting thorough research on immigration laws, regulations, and precedents, which contributes to developing our legal arguments and strategies. I also draft and send correspondence to clients and government officials. I most recently even worked with Deb Fischer's office to help expedite some client cases.

In my role, I am constantly exposed to complex immigration cases that require a deep understanding of the law and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing regulations. This challenges me to seek opportunities to learn and grow, whether by discussing challenges with coworkers or meeting with attorneys to seek their advice. By embracing such development opportunities, I actively help enhance my knowledge and become a more valuable asset to the firm.

My work at the firm has connected to the different aspects of my academic life. For example, I took Immigration & Politics (POLS333) my sophomore year, and I can piece content from that class into real-life examples. I also better understand our legal system because of some of the political science classes I have taken over the past few years. Over the summer, I was enrolled in a 3-week session for my human rights minor. We talked about immigration practices and the concept of open-border policies. It helped me reflect on our immigration processes and how they can be improved.

My work experience at Wolzen Law Office has been extraordinary. Since I have been working at this law firm part-time for over a year, I have had a long time to determine whether or not this is the type of law I want to practice.

I am happy to say that I still wholeheartedly want to practice immigration law after I graduate from law school and pass the bar exam. I myself immigrated to the United States when I was around three years old.

My favorite project was researching and finding paths to citizenship for Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Being able to take advantage of loopholes and help these clients and their families finally adjust status and eventually naturalize has been unbelievably rewarding.

What are you involved in on campus or in the community?
I was involved in Residence Life as a Resident Assistant in Selleck during my sophomore year. I was the Senior Resident Assistant for the same building during my junior year of college. I would have loved to return to Housing, but I could not since I am graduating early.

I am a member and the former Vice President of Recruitment for the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH).

I am a member of the Indian Students Association (ISA).

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation this fall, I will work full-time at Wolzen Law Office for the spring and summer before starting my first law school semester.