Everyone at Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law is dedicated to helping our local and nationwide communities build strong foundations that will lead to a brighter future. As part of that dedication, we decided to start a scholarship in 2017. The Fall 2019 submission period just came to a close, and we were truly humbled by the amount of applications we received as well as the overall quality of every essay. Thank you to everyone who applied!
We’re happy to announce that we’ve chosen a winner. Congratulations to Rebecca Fadler of Commerce Township, Michigan!
Rebecca will be attending Indiana University Maurer School of Law to continue her graduate studies.
Fall 2019’s essay topic was as follows:
What book changed your life and why?
Here’s her essay:
Looking Backward to Move Forward
“As a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English, I know how personal language can be. I have books that feel like my own memories and when I turn the pages I remember where I was in my life when I read it. I have books from people that I love with intimate dedications in them. I have books that taught me a lesson I would not have learned in my own life. I have all these special words, but I only have one book that uprooted my life and sent me on a new path. That beloved and infuriating book is Lancelot or The Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes. The book documents Sir Lancelot’s journey to rescue Queen Guinevere on behalf of King Arthur and I spent a year with it as I researched and wrote my senior thesis. This extensive study was meant to confirm that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in Medieval English, but instead convinced me to go to Law School. I used the book to understand the experiences of medieval people and I realized that what I wanted from life was to use my ability to understand people with different hardships than my own to advocate for people who may not be able to advocate for themselves. So, after taking the GRE and spending my entire college career preparing to attend graduate school, I sat for the LSAT and then on Saturday, March 23, 2019, after years of swearing I would not go to Law School, I committed to Indiana University Maurer School of Law all because of a book I read.
In Arthurian tales like Lancelot, Guinevere is not given personality traits. Instead, her responses are based on whether she is based on whether she is around her husband Arthur who she is forced to serve or her lover Lancelot. Even around her beloved Lancelot, Guinevere is not given agency because in medieval times, love was an uncontrollable disease that was caught, so people who were stricken with it acted formulaically. Regardless of the situation Guinevere is in, she does not have agency to decide what she will do on her own nor is she characterized enough that the reader can foresee her actions based off of her personality. The difficulty is, even though this is a fictional story, it reflects the way medieval people thought about marriage and female roles. No matter how outlandish stories become, the deep routed opinions of the author are always visible. The way Guinevere is written is not supposed to be relatable, she is not meant to conjure up emotions, but the fact that she is voiceless made me want to advocate for her.
Even though I do not face the same hardships as Guinevere, even though I am not a pawn in a marriage and never will be, I still understand Guinevere’s struggle and if it were possible, I would rewrite her story. As I was analyzing Lancelot and relating it to modern day adaptations like the graphic novel Camelot 3000 in which Guinevere still shockingly is characterized as “Arthur’s wife”, it kept hitting me that even though the medieval times are long since over, there are still people who cannot advocate for themselves and I want to use my education to make a difference for them. I ultimately changed my educational track because I know that people face much graver difficulties than I ever will and just because it is not my experience does not mean that I cannot do something to help them. As reading Lancelot made me realize this, I started thinking about the experiences that I valued in college and want to continue having in my professional life. Every single instance I came up with was one in which I had a chance to advocate for someone else.
The beginning of my experiences of learning to advocate for someone was when I applied to be a member of Tower Guard at Michigan State University. Tower Guard is an honors
organization that works closely with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD), so students of all abilities have the same opportunities at MSU. I was one of the approximately 70 members selected from the top 5% of my freshman class to serve, and then I was elected by my peers to be the PR/Webmaster of the Executive Board. In my time with Tower Guard, I mainly worked with a blind student who I will call “Daniel,” helping him write papers. I taught him how to write, and in exchange he taught me how to “see” by pointing out the places that are not accessible to him. For example, buildings that use multiple trash cans to promote recycling are often inaccessible because they lack braille. Daniel simultaneously showed me both how able he was and how much the world still needs more accessible environments. I learned to read Daniel like a book, to see his experience, and through this I found a passion for promoting accessibility in a way that highlights ability.
At the end of my Tower Guard experience, I was able to put this passion to work because the RCPD offered me a position as a Student Public Relations Coordinator, so I could work on projects that promoted accessibility. In my time there, I created visual aids, managed websites, advised Tower Guard members, served as a Mistress of Ceremony at the awards reception, designed the Donor Newsletter and Awards Reception Program, and sat on several event planning boards. My favorite event was Alex’s Great State Race, named in memory of Alex Powell who battled cancer in his time at Michigan State. As Michigan State University and the University of Michigan (U-M) face off on the football field, RCPD and Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD at U-M) join with the Spartan and Wolverine Battalions to run the game ball from Ann Arbor to East Lansing in support of accessibility in higher education. As a member of the event committee, I created fliers, ran the website, managed social media, and organized food. The reason I did this was Alex’s mom, Juliana. Despite the loss of her son to cancer, Juliana is one of the kindest and happiest people I have ever met. If I could do anything to take a burden off her shoulders, I felt like I had done my job. Juliana was able to take the biggest trauma of her life and turn it into something that really improves the world. If she can do that with a trauma, I hope I can make a difference with my education and perspective.
My need to understand and help people with different problems than I have is not limited to fictional Medieval queens and people with disabilities. In college, I took a class called Journalism 492 in which I worked with the College of Journalism to co-write my first of two published Bias Busters guides. The first book I worked on was 100 Questions and Answers on Gender Identity and the second was 100 Questions and Answers on Sexual Orientation. When I first took on these projects, I was not well versed in the experiences of the LGBT+ community, but I made it my goal to understand their reality, so I could write something real and educational. Our goal to create a safer environment for the LGBT+ community was something I took very seriously as I conducted interviews, wrote, and edited. Being published twice in college was nice, but that’s not why I did it. I wanted to give people who have never met a transgender or LGB+ person a gateway to information so that they could approach their friends, relatives, and colleagues with kindness.
I wish I could say that the book that changed my life forever was some moving work of literature that teaches you how to be the best version of yourself, but in reality, the book that changed my life is not that special. It is a book that I enjoyed reading and analyzing for the most important paper I have ever written as I tried to decide what I value as I moved forward. Maybe I was always meant to be an attorney, my parents certainly think so, but I like to think that at the time I read it, Lancelot or The Knight of the Cart was what I needed to read to show me where I am meant to go next.”
For more information on the next scholarship period which will be for Fall 2020, please see our law firm’s scholarship page. Congratulations again, Rebecca! Good luck in all your future endeavors.