In our most recent webinar, we had the pleasure of talking with a current online MSL student, Savanna Sanders. She kindly joined us for a fun and informal conversation that nonetheless provided some great insights into the day-to-day life as a McGeorge online MSL student of Water and Environmental Law. Savanna now serves as a water resource planner with experience in state-wide water planning, water resource management, CEQA and NEPA compliance, regulatory compliance, and environmental fieldwork at Zanjero Inc., where she’s busy advising, managing, and solving the resource management issues faced by clients.
Savanna chose to study at McGeorge School of Law because she knew that she wanted to specifically focus on water law and water resources. Though interested in law, she didn’t need to commit to a full JD degree to advance in her career. After identifying her goals, she discovered that this part-time online MSL program catered to working professionals and helped them manage work, life, and school. It was a perfect fit. Also, as a Sacramento resident, it was extremely important that she attended a localized school so she could build a professional network within the community.
Online MSL Student Applies Knowledge in Real Time
Savanna only recently landed her role at a small water resources consulting firm here in Sacramento, Ca. Her new employers and mentors, meanwhile, have over 30 years of experience as lawyers, engineers, and planners, making the workplace a fantastic melting pot of legal, financial, technical, and engineering projects. The variety is exciting and comes with a steep learning curve, so she wanted to understand it deeper; McGeorge’s all-encompassing MSL in Water and Environmental Law was the ideal complement.
Savanna says her schooling directly aligns with her day-to-day work, “so it’s almost funny because what I end up reading or listening to in my lectures is typically what my projects end up needing. I’m really learning and applying my knowledge in real-time.”
Due to the intensity of her job, she was advised to take 1 class per semester, which turned out to be a wise decision – at her previous job, which was less demanding, she was taking 2 per semester. “I’m really grateful that the MSL program has that flexibility to change with you as time goes on,” she says. McGeorge certainly takes flexibility seriously, from professors planning due dates that take students’ professional responsibilities into consideration, to the asynchronous course structure.
Becoming Part of the Change
Savanna is primarily interested in becoming a water resource specialist because she wants to deeply understand how water systems, management, and law work, especially in her home state of California. Living in this trend center for other Western states, she has witnessed first-hand how much work needs to be done (for example, the grueling droughts that have plagued the landscape). She hopes that, as she continues to improve her knowledge of this area, she can be part of the change.
“I feel this importance to be in my home state, and to do what I can to learn how we can help save such a vital resource. Water is life, and we should all develop a deeper respect and appreciation for it. The more that I get to know myself and to ask myself questions about what I want to do in my life and what I value, it becomes more and more clear to me that I need to focus on water and advocate for the environment,” she said.
She’s already looking for ways to impact the planet’s future in a positive way, something we’re so proud to hear about from our students. “Every day I learn something new. I like to think of it as another piece of the puzzle, and I’m putting it all together, and the MSL program was the starting piece. Every day at work I see how problems are solved, so I develop deeper perspectives. I look forward to building my career and ultimately focusing my life’s work in this area,” she said.
She currently works under a watermaster who is in charge of a basin down in Southern California. She is also currently in a Water Law class with a research project assignment. When she put these puzzle pieces together and chose that particular basin for her project, well, she basically got to be paid to do her homework! “It has allowed me to just gain so much more knowledge on what my work is going to be in my career. It’s been a really fun couple of months for me when my job relates to my schooling.” The rest of her coursework includes discussion posts designed to engage students in the Socratic Method, readings, quizzes, and the occasional paper. “I really enjoy this learning style.”
Manageable and So Fulfilling
Now, she feels that she can offer some of those deeper perspectives to other current or prospective students. “First, I would like to say that it’s okay and normal to feel nervous. This is a big life step, but it’s totally manageable and it’s so fulfilling,” she said. She advises accomplishing something related to school 6 days per week but taking one day off to decompress. “Especially if you’re working full time and taking two classes per semester, it will be necessary to build a strong weekly schedule and to break up tasks into small daily goals,” Sanders said.
Another tip? Reach out to your classmates. Savanna posted on the discussion board to say that she’d be studying at the library weekly, and invited any other local students to join her. “It can be hard to build connections when you’re in an online program, but it’s much more enjoyable when you can meet other students. And so I personally made some really, truly amazing friends in this program,” she said. Go to school functions, get on the email list, attend talks, communicate via discussion board posts, and use office hours to connect with professors. Basically, find your opportunities when and wherever you can!
“Honestly, I would say it has made my career. I knew it was going to elevate me to the next level, and I got my dream job as a current student. So don’t be afraid to try something that seems out of reach. Your education is something that can never be taken from you, and if you are passionate and want to go further in your understanding of law, environment, water, and government, you have nothing to lose by completing this program. It’s a stepping stone for career growth and employers want you because you have this degree.” She makes a good point. When you stop to think about it, “technically, you’re teaching yourself on the side, so your employers don’t have to. It’s a benefit for them that you’re providing yourself with an education.” We’re just happy to have an enthusiastic, hardworking, and passionate student like Savanna grace the McGeorge legacy.
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