Neda Ismail was determined to advance her career in government service. In 2015, she left her home country of Afghanistan, leaving behind a job with an American agency that she had worked with extensively, to pursue public service in the United States.

It took her more than five years, but the current McGeorge LLM student’s dream is back on track. Ismail recently accepted a job as a program analyst at the California Department of Education (CDE).

Ismail, an attorney, was a senior national legal advisor in the Afghanistan Justice Sector Support Program charged with overhauling the country’s justice system after decades of civil and international conflict. Her work as a liaison between the U.S. and Afghani governments brought well-earned praise. Her application for immigration to the U.S. was easily approved.

“I wanted to come to California,” 30-year-old Ismail said. “I had a law degree from Kabul University and a Master’s in Business Administration from American University of Afghanistan and wanted to eventually work in the government sector. I almost landed in San Diego, then settled in Sacramento, the state capital.”

Ismail first worked for Volt, a large international staffing agency. Conversant in six languages, and equipped with excellent computer skills, she quickly advanced from material handler to service warehouse trainer. In two years there, she took on increasing responsibilities and exceled as an employee mentor.

An interview at the Apple campus in Elk Grove led to full time work as a service warehouse trainer. She landed in a supervisorial role, coordinating the training of and evaluating the individual performance of 30 team members.

In addition to working full time, Ismail began the processes of becoming an American citizen and interviewing for state government jobs. Both efforts were temporarily stymied last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I got a few telephone interviews, but no job offers,” Ismail said. “But I knew I could contribute a lot. I knew I had to get back into the law.”

Ismail applied for and was accepted to McGeorge’s LLM program, focusing on U.S. Law and Policy. She started the program in January 2021. Sitting and participating in a virtual law school classroom discussion, Ismail felt right at home.

“It was a good feeling,” Ismail said. “I needed to polish my legal skills, and it gave my confidence a boost.”

In March, she was offered a position at CDE. She quickly accepted. Ismail’s long-term plans now include taking the bar exam and using her education in a state or federal government legal role.

“I have an athlete’s mentality,” said Ismail, who is proficient in several martial arts. “If I get knocked down, I get right up again.”

“I want to make my family proud,” she said.