UB law grad named one of nation's best Her support of victims of domestic abuse noted

June 27, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Susan M. Rodgers never, ever wanted to be an attorney when she was growing up.

But in one of those twists of fate, the 28-year-old Rodgers Forge woman not only graduated from University of Baltimore Law School this spring but also was named one of the nation's top law students.

"She is really one of the more extraordinary students I've come across here in my eight years of teaching," said Jane C. Murphy, an associate professor at the law school and faculty adviser of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project -- a program Rodgers founded.

It was partly Rodgers' involvement in the domestic violence program that led to her being selected the 1996 Outstanding Law Student of the Year in Who's Who: American Law Students, a national listing of 5,000 law students with significant achievements.

'I was thrilled'

Other criteria considered by the publication's editorial committee included scholarship, community service and service to the law school community.

"I was honored. I was thrilled," said Rodgers, who plans to donate her $500 award to the nonprofit organization she started in her first year of law school.

"I entered law school to help victims of crime related to violence," she said. "I wanted to see if in a small way I could impact that."

Within months of starting at UB in 1993, she placed an ad in the school newspaper about forming an advocacy program. By April 1994, she had gathered 10 students to discuss how they could aid victims of abuse. Today, there are 130 members.

Their activities include educational seminars, legal research, input at legislative hearings, volunteer work at area shelters and fund raising.

"We've collected thousands of dollars worth of stuff," Rodgers said. "It was heartwarming to see the pouring in of new toys, bassinets, formula and highchairs by students who usually are so wrapped up in school."

She plays down her own part, however.

"In many projects, she's given of herself," Murphy said. "If the fund raising had fallen short, she made up the difference herself."

Had two majors

Rodgers, a 1985 Parkville High School graduate, said she never expected to pursue the field of law when she completed a double major in family and community development and psychology at the University of Maryland College Park in 1990.

A job as a counselor at the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens provided the impetus for a dramatic change, though. Rodgers met a prosecutor who was helping one of her clients who had been sexually abused.

"I saw the difference it could make if done correctly," she said.

Within two months, Rodgers applied to the University of Baltimore Law School, where she soon was juggling classes, the advocacy project and also counseling children with AIDS and counseling at the Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Center in Towson.

Rodgers also participated in several internships while at UB, including one at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Currently, she's a law clerk for the chief legal counsel of the Baltimore City Police Department, where she teaches domestic violence law to recruits. Next month, she'll take the bar exam.

Her goal is to become a judge. In the meantime, once she passes the bar, she'll consider law firms and government service.

But not before she and her husband, David Patschke, enjoy a long-awaited trip to Hawaii in September to celebrate their fifth anniversary. The past few years have been hectic, Rodgers acknowledges.

"I've come to appreciate free time," she said with a laugh.

And even though she has graduated, she'll remain involved in the domestic-violence advocacy program at UB.

Already, she's formed an alumni board and laid the groundwork for a membership drive in the fall to expand the group to xTC graduate and undergraduate students at the school -- and to increase the number of men involved.

"It's not just a women's issue," Rodgers stresses.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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