The First in the BDIC Fall Lecture Series

On October 21st, 2015, BDIC sponsored a lecture by two UMass Amherst graduates who shared their stories with BDIC students. Kate Cessna, 2008, and Erica Mattison, 2003, are both currently practicing law.

 After graduation, Kate worked for several non-profits as well as in a public defender’s office. She also worked for the ACLU on a Death Penalty policy case which overturned the death penalty in the state of Connecticut. Kate currently works in Disability Law, and her clients are low income with psychiatric diagnoses . She discussed the client-based aspect of this type of law, as opposed to working for a large corporation. Kate was a BDIC major during her time at UMass, with a concentration in “Developing Democracy: Media Portrayal, Public Perception and Political Participation.” Kate spoke about how important public speaking is for all career paths and emphasized that there are always creative ways to make everything work out.

Erica graduated from UMass with a major in Psychology and a minor in Art History. After graduation she served as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State House. While attending Suffolk University, Erica advocated for a new recycling program; this promptly led to her creating a job to do just that. After working as a sustainability coordinator at Suffolk, she worked with Senator John Kerry during his presidential campaign. Erica now works as a lobbyist for Environmental Protection in Massachusetts, which is a non-profit organization. Erica discussed with the students how she loves building communities and stressed the importance of forming and maintaining relationships.

 Erica and Kate spoke to students about ways to get ahead professionally while still at the university, such as joining as many organizations as possible and also touted the resources that UMass provides that enable individuals to form their own advocacy groups. Students were encouraged to advocate for themselves while here at UMass and the speakers stressed how this helps prepare students of all interests to succeed in whatever line of work they end up in. The event ended with a question and answer format in which students had a chance to talk with Erica and Kate about their interests.


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