McGeorge Student Interviews

McGeorge’s Online MSL is Helping Legal Professionals From Diverse Backgrounds

McGeorge Student InterviewsThe McGeorge Master of Science in Law online programs prepare professionals in various fields and positions to work in law or in roles that intersect with legal issues. The MSL provides students with the legal knowledge and skills required to enhance their current jobs without the need to practice law.

McGeorge offers two online Master of Science in Law degrees – Water and Environment Law and Government Law and Policy. These programs are meant for recent graduates and working professionals and are on a part-time schedule with asynchronous courses. The MSL programs are designed to be interactive so that you can engage on a weekly basis with faculty and your classmates. The flexible curriculum allows you to study on the schedule that works best for you.

Students who enroll in these degree programs are from diverse backgrounds and work in varied professions. McGeorge recently spoke with several students who started the MSL program a few weeks prior. The interview sessions provided considerable insight into why they chose the program and how they plan to leverage the degree in their careers.


Bret Gladfelty

Bret GladfeltyBret Gladfelty is enrolled in the MSL in Government Law and Policy. After receiving his BA in Finances from Santa Clara University, Bret worked for a nonprofit where he became interested in an advocacy role. He is currently working as a contract lobbyist with the Apex Group. His job regularly interacts with the California code and many facets of the law. He feels that the MSL degree would help him better understand the law. Bret’s primary motivation for applying to the MSL is to be a better advocate and lobbyist.

Another key reason Bret chose McGeorge was the convenience of the online courses. He often travels for work not only as a lobbyist, but also as the commercial pilot for the firm, and an in-person program would have been challenging to manage with his schedule. “Having that flexibility is key in order for me to take the course. Otherwise, I would definitely miss some classes.” He was also influenced by colleagues who had completed the MSL program and advised him that it was beneficial for their careers as lobbyists. Bret’s father also attended McGeorge and received a JD in the 1980s.

Looking into his future, Bret sees the MSL as beneficial in reassuring prospective clients of his legal knowledge and abilities while interacting with the California Legislature. “I believe just having that extra degree displays that you have the dedication to learn more about the law.”


Heidi Mekkelson

Legal Professionals - Heidi MekkelsonHeidi Mekkelson is an environmental consultant and managing director at ICF in San Francisco. She has 19 years of experience in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. Heidi is enrolled in the MSL in Water and Environmental Law program.

Heidi manages the preparation of environmental impact analyses pursuant to CEQA, which requires any public agency with discretionary authority to approve a project to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the project prior to approval. CEQA documents are often the subject of litigation, so lawyers thoroughly review the documents she prepares. She needs to be able to think like a lawyer and anticipate what they will want to see in her documents. “The MSL program teaches us how to interpret case law and statute, and how to apply legal analysis to our work, which are skills that are critical to my job.”

When she found McGeorge, she had been looking for a program that would expand her understanding of the law. Heidi chose the MSL at McGeorge for several reasons. “I loved the additional focus on water law. The subject of water resources has always been a favorite topic of mine. That extra layer was appealing.”

As a working professional with a full-time job and children, Heidi appreciates the program’s online format. “The asynchronous program is really the only option for me.” Although she is happy in her current position, Heidi is open to the possibilities the MSL degree will give her. “Whether it’s taking me to “next level” consultant status, improving the quality of the documents I prepare, or helping me pivot to a new career path, I know this program will do something great for my career.”


Jamaal Valentine

Legal Professionals - Jamaal ValentineJamaal Valentine holds a BA in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration, both degrees from the University of Phoenix. He served in the Air Force and is currently the Chief of the Contracting Office for the Department of Defense. In this role, Jamaal is responsible for buying goods and services that the government needs to operate using taxpayer dollars.

He feels that his MBA doesn’t help him in the Chief of the Contracting position because government contracting is unique. It doesn’t follow standard business practices. The MBA could not help him understand government operations. Although he receives regular training in his position, it hasn’t been particularly challenging.

Jamaal regularly works with judge advocate generals, which are basically government attorneys. There is a constant intersection with the law in his job. He feels that the Contract Law and Introduction to Legal Analysis courses are more structured than his on-the-job training. He joined the program because he is a life-long learner and to be a positive influence on his children.

“Now that I’m working with the California National Guard in a federal capacity, my hope is to be a better contracting officer and a better steward of the taxpayer dollars. Formal legal training will make it a reality.”


Nancy Beecher

Nancy BeecherNancy Beecher joined McGeorge’s MSL in Water and Environmental Law program. She has a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is a Senior Environmental Biologist at Southern Nevada Water Authority, where she helps ensure water for over two million residents and forty million annual visitors. Her main focus is providing scientific and writing expertise for water rights processes and environmental compliance efforts to support large water development projects. A major part of this work is blending biological, hydrologic, geospatial, and legal information to inform smart land and water resource management. She’s worked in the water profession for 15 years and wanted to grow professionally.

Water development projects have to meet many environmental legal requirements, so Nancy’s work regularly intersects with the law. But as a scientist, she felt limited by her lack of understanding of the law. She enrolled in the MSL program because she wanted to expand her knowledge from a legal perspective. She wants to understand the legal landscape, the current law, and cases popping up around the country regarding water and the environment.

“As a scientist, I want to be able to integrate that into my science and analysis.” Nancy appreciates McGeorge’s focus on water law as well as environmental law. “A water law class available to a nonlawyer is great because it’s so hard to find.”  

Nancy spent hours online searching for the right program to teach her about the law pertaining to the environment and water. She also needed it to be flexible enough to keep up with her demanding job. And with a family in tow, she did not have the option of moving to get that education. “McGeorge was unique because they really focus the program on professionals. People who are applying the law on a regular basis, but who also have jobs and families.”

She was happy to find that the program has both introductory and advanced law courses. As someone with no formal legal education, she is grateful for the introductory courses. She is also very excited to delve into the advanced classes that pertain to her field. “You get the complete package of the education you want.” 

The caliber of her cohort has been a pleasant surprise. She enjoys the different fields of interest and professions that her classmates have. The online aspect makes it easier for them all to fit school into their professional lives. And she’s excited by how passionate they are about why they’re in the program.

Nancy’s biggest reservation was wondering how much she would get from an online program. She was pleased to find there would be a few live sessions to give her a chance to connect with her professors and classmates. And the professors are very accommodating to the students. They have “Zoom office hours” and make themselves very available at the student’s preference. She also enjoys the convenience of the recorded classes.

Nancy saw benefits from the MSL program early on as she was able to apply what she learned in her very first class to her job the next day. Finally, Nancy added, “It’s worth the money and time – if you apply yourself. If your intention is to get the most out of the program, it’s worth it.”


Celine Takatsuno

Celine Takatsuno is the founder of Gracepoint Inc., where she provides global advisory and strategy consulting services to emerging technology companies and social impact startups.

Professionally, Celine is a generalist. She knew she didn’t want to be a litigator, but she was fascinated by the practice of law. Her work often crosses into legal areas in industries from advertising and media to caregiving and healthcare. She collaborates with lawyers in many aspects, including contracts and policy interpretation. Her current focus is on the dynamics of personal data privacy.-. “Technology and business are moving faster than legislation and policy,” she says, “I’d like to help bridge that.” 

Celine chose the MSL program at McGeorge for several reasons. She was searching for grad school programs in law or policy. And McGeorge stood out from other programs. She liked the school’s location in Sacramento and near the Capitol. She was also impressed with the program being based in a law school compared to other programs that were not. Celine said, “It has a lot of focus on critical analysis, legal reasoning, and there’s a lot of rigor coming from a law school. Those are probably the top reasons I chose it.”

Because she spends a great deal of time traveling, Celine wanted a hybrid or an online program. She likes the convenience of the recorded classes. “It’s so easy to take school on the road. That is super helpful.” In addition, she prefers to learn in a more self-directed environment.

An unexpected advantage to the program is the diversity of the students. Celine expected everyone to be early in their careers, with similar academic backgrounds. But instead, she found a diverse group. “I love the fact that we have these really, really accomplished professionals. The caliber of students is very motivating.”  

Deborah Keen

Legal Professionals - Deborah Keen Deborah Keen has been a high school government and legal studies teacher for many years. She has a BA from the University of North Texas in political science and always considered law school. Apart from her teaching position, Deborah is also a contract curriculum writer for agencies such as the Texas State Bar and the Center for American and International Law. In 2020, she was awarded Teacher of The Year by The American Lawyers Alliance for her efforts to promote quality civics education. She is currently enrolled in the MSL for Government Law and Policy program.

Deborah has a family and a career, but she wants to continue her education. She looked for programs that allowed her to study the law without having to become a lawyer. She does not wish to represent clients. Instead, her plans for the MSL degree are to advocate for public education and work alongside nonprofits. She likes the flexibility of the online program because it allows her to continue her work in education.

McGeorge’s online program is an excellent fit to help Deborah increase her knowledge. She felt other programs lacked the public policy focus she was looking for, whereas each class in McGeorge’s course list looked interesting and relevant to her career. “The courses, cost, the length of the program; I was impressed with what they offered, and I liked the government law and policy focus.”


Varied Backgrounds and Professions Have a Few Things in Common

Although the students are in varied professions and are at different levels of their careers, they have one common trait. They are incredibly pleased with the convenience of the online MSL program as it provides a way to continue their education while maintaining their current jobs.

Each student enrolled in either MSL program has different plans for their future. However, they are confident that McGeorge was the right choice. And they are excited about their courses and the positive impact the degree will have on their future careers.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as the depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for recent graduates and working professionals who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career.

Start building your career today with McGeorge School of Law Online. For more information, contact us at or 916.739.7019.

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