Erica Bathke ’08 first visited Alverno on the recommendation of a friend, but as soon as she set foot on campus, she felt a sense of community that resonated with her and made her want to attend.
Bathke came to Alverno as a transfer student, finishing her last four semesters at the College. “When I compare it to other schools I attended, I’d say it has much more of a community aspect. The feel of the classroom was so much more comfortable for me. It really allowed me to come out of my shell.”
One of Bathke’s first memories was the two-minute speech that was part of the entrance process for every student. Although she loved public speaking, she remembered being terrified at the whole concept. Seeing it as a “make it or break it” moment, she desperately wanted to impress the faculty who would ultimately view it. However, if she entered Alverno terrified, she left a transformed woman.
“I went from a quiet, shy person who was accustomed to being lectured at to becoming fully engaged in the learning process. That helped me to process the information more thoroughly and learn so much more. I went from being talked to, to being communicated with. And once I was fully engaged in the conversation, I became way more comfortable and way more confident.”
Bathke always enjoyed school and loved learning, so with new-found confidence, she found a pathway to deciding upon her major. “It wasn’t until Alverno that I cemented my place in the world of History.It finally clicked with me and once I got into it, I fell in love with it.”
Part of the reason Bathke enjoyed History so much was the interaction she had with Alverno’s History professors. “I’ve never felt that a group of professors work as well as the department at Alverno. Had it not been for them, as well as the greater Alverno community, I would not have succeeded in the ways that I have. Regardless of who you interact with at Alverno, everybody wants you to succeed and excel at whatever you choose to do in life.”
Thinking back to her very first paper at Alverno, Bathke admits it wasn’t one of her most brilliant pieces of work. And yet, she remembers going over it with Jodi Eastberg, associate professor of History, who was both supportive and encouraging. As a result of that initial collaboration, Bathke realized that she was used to merely citing facts for a paper and what was missing was her analysis. Essentially, she was being asked to provide her unique perspective to make the paper truly outstanding.
“The process allowed me to develop my learning style in a way that I never experienced. I went from regurgitating facts to sharing my own perspective by bringing together several items and filtering them to where it makes sense. I was looking at it from all different sides until I had a finished product.”
The same in-depth analysis is perfectly suited for law. The profession requires you to take input from the client and judge, as well as the opposing lawyer, and filter it to the point of a basis for your argument. “If it weren’t for the base at Alverno, I don’t know if I could’ve gotten through that first year of law school.”
It was after her first year at Alverno that she decided to pursue law school. As Bathke was deciding on which school to attend – with much faculty support, of course – she realized the most important aspect was a school with similar attributes to Alverno. The more familiar she became with New England Law in Boston, the more she was certain it was the school for her.
“I wanted smaller class sizes. I wanted that community feel. New England Law caught my eye and I fell in love with it. There’s no undergraduate program, so it’s a stand-alone law school.The way professors treat students is so akin to how Alverno treats students. It’s the same kind of top-down care.”
Indeed, there are many similarities between Alverno and New England Law. While the student to teacher ratio at the 100-year-old law school is an impressive 22:1, another profound commonality is that the school, originally founded as the Portia Law School, was the only law school in the United States founded exclusively for women. In addition, the commitment to experiential learning is a benefit to every student who attends and a benchmark for other schools to consider.
For Bathke, it was a great choice and an experience she has enjoyed every step of the way.Set to graduate in May, Bathke will quickly transition to studying for the bar examination, which she is set to take in late July. With that comes a commitment to staying in Massachusetts where she hopes to pursue a career in the contractual aspects of law, either pertaining to sports, international or corporate.
“The biggest thing I pulled from Alverno is that I was never a number. I was always accomplishing something. There were always people who were proud of what I was doing. And I fully intend to keep making them proud and myself happy.”