After graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle with majors in Political Science and American Indian Studies and minors in Diversity and Human Rights, Chris Schwarz continued on his academic journey, and his high school friends had a lot to do with his choosing law as a profession. The first in his family to graduate from college – and the only one of his friends to finish high school – Chris’s acquaintances joked that he needed to become a lawyer to help them out the legal situations that were all too common in their tough neighborhood in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Something about his friends’ words resonated with his own aspirations, and Chris began applying to law schools.
While sending out applications, Chris received an email inviting him to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Graduate/Professional Student Recruitment Initiative (GPS), which provides information to potential students and contributes to the diversity of The Ohio State University's Graduate School and Professional Colleges. Knowing how difficult it could be to get accepted into a law school, Chris approached his GPS visit to the Moritz College of Law with few expectations. “I packed up my backpack and my New Mexico flag (which I take everywhere I go) and headed to Columbus, riding on a whim of spontaneity, an open mind, and an open heart.”
With nothing to lose – and everything to gain – Chris arrived on Ohio State’s campus and immediately felt as if this was where he belonged. “Even though not many people looked like me, spoke like me, or were even from where I was from, the sense of connection I experienced with everyone was beautiful.” Having participated in other law school and university tours, Chris felt that often the focus became what that school’s name meant on a student’s diploma rather than the significance of having a diploma with one’s own name on it: “GPS and the Moritz College of Law showed me that they cared more about the most important name on a student’s diploma: the student’s.”
At the closing GPS banquet, Chris was seated next to Robert Solomon, at the time an assistant dean in the Moritz College of Law and now an assistant vice provost in the Office of Diversity and inclusion. Feeling out of place in his jeans, torn sneakers, and the shirt his mom bought for him with the few dollars remaining in her back account, Chris told Dean Solomon his story about losing his brother, majoring in American Indian Studies because of his New Mexico roots, and his family’s welfare struggles. “Dean Solomon connected the dots within my diverse background, and for that, I am forever thankful.” His conversation with Dean Solomon, along with the relationships formed during GPS, made an impact on Chris and where he wanted to go to school. “The people’s lives we will change as a result of our Ohio State law degree is because of the diversity that GPS celebrates. This is why I chose The Ohio State University.”
In addition to the JD and Master of Science in Kinesiology, Sport Management degrees he’ll receive in spring of 2016, Chris also plans on adding a certificate in Children’s Studies from the Moritz College of Law, which will allow him to work with children in need of legal services for custody battles, school issues, and domestic violence situations. Those subjects are close to Chris’s heart. “I was once one of those kids. When I was five or six, my mom and I were the victims of domestic violence and required a legal aid society to help with custody and abuse concerns. I was in and out of squad cars and courtroom daycare services, but the legal help I got then was life-saving in many ways.”
After he graduates, Chris will be leaving for California where he has a job waiting for him at a law firm in Los Angeles. In addition to practicing law in California, Chris hopes to pass the bar in New Mexico so that he could provide free legal help and support to the community and people that helped raise him.