Meet Jackson O’Brien, the 2018-19 president of the Drake University Law School Student Bar Association (SBA).
Tell me about your background.
I’m from Sioux City, Iowa, and I went to undergrad at Morningside College. I majored in history and political science, with minors in legal studies and theater.
What made you choose Drake for law school?
I applied to about five law schools in the Midwest. Overall, I came to Drake because I knew it could get me where I wanted to go. Drake offered me a quality education at a reasonable cost in a growing legal community. I’m very happy with that decision. I feel prepared and ready for practice.
What extracurricular activities are you involved with at Drake?
This February, I was elected president of the SBA. I’m also a captain on the National Moot Court team, a teaching assistant, research assistant, editor on the Drake Law Review, and a clerk at Whitfield and Eddy Law.
What does the SBA do?
We oversee budgeting of student organizations to make sure they are supported, well-funded, and active. We also offer services to Drake Law students that entail reviewing disciplinary actions, responding to student feedback, and improving student amenities. And, very importantly, we take student concerns and articulate them to faculty and staff.
What goals do you want to accomplish?
One of our goals is to be more connected with the broader Drake University community. So we’re looking into engagement opportunities with all students at Drake.
Within the Law School, the SBA has a three-step process. First, we’re restructuring the organization to accomplish our goals. We revised our committees to focus on student and organization outreach, event coordination, and internal affairs. We also restructured our budget and scholarships to help attract people to SBA membership and higher positions.
Step two is being present and engaged with students. That will include revising our newsletter and creating surveys to gather student opinion. We want students to feel comfortable talking to us.
Step three is acting on the feedback we hear from students. Right now, scheduling is a big issue, so we worked with the Law School’s Curriculum Committee on measures like block scheduling next year. That will leave a free hour in the middle of the day for students to get lunch and for student organizations to schedule events.
Any other important missions for the organization?
A big focus for us is the wellness of students—making sure they have resources and access to people who can help them through personal and professional struggles.
We also want to help students feel supported in their ultimate pursuit of a job. We’ll work closely with the Law School’s Career Development Office to help students find job opportunities and know how to apply to those jobs through workshops on resumes, cover letters, how to dress professionally, and how to interview well.
What advice do you have for students wanting to get involved in SBA?
For students who have an interest in engaging with the Law School, who want to be recognized walking down the hallway, and who care about making this institution a better place—I would encourage them to run for office, to start engaging with their classmates.
But even if you’re not a member of the SBA, you can speak up, identify issues, go to your representatives, and seek out solutions with them. That is very valuable, too.
How can I find more information about the SBA?
We have an SBA page on TWEN for existing law students where they can find resources such as how to register and budget a student organization, how to combat disciplinary actions, where to submit complaints and suggestions.
This year we will revamp our social media presence and outreach. We also have an office in the lower level of the Law Library. We welcome students to come in and interact with us.
Is there anything else about SBA or about yourself that students should know?
About myself—I ran for SBA president because I had a very clear plan of action for how to make the organization better, and thus improve the overall student body experience at Drake. It’s a job I take very seriously and a job I’m very honored to have. I’m really hoping to hit the ground running and make sure we are working hard on behalf of the students.
As far as SBA, I would emphasize that we have a very strong support and recognition of diversity. We have a diversity representative in SBA who helps plan diversity events and works with a University-wide diversity coalition. Part of our overall mission is to make sure students from marginalized groups feel welcome, have a voice, and have full opportunities.