Courtney Yonker: Cooley Law School Dean’s Fellow Feature
“It was just a feeling,” said Cooley Law School student Courtney Yonker, when she tried to explain how she ended up going to law school and why she chose Cooley Law School. At first the thought of law school was scary, but then she remembered that her father, Marc Yonker, not only got through law school, but has loved his career ever since.
“It’s just like what you see in the movies when everyone talks about law school, it’s like this nightmare,” explained Yonker. “I used to hear everyone talk about the cold calling in class, and, oh my gosh, it seemed so terrifying. But then I thought of my dad who went to law school – he went to Cooley’s Lansing campus – and he had such a great experience.”
He would tell his daughter that Cooley isn’t there to embarrass you or to make you stand up in class and rip you apart. It may be law school he explained, and it’s going to be hard, but they’re supportive.
“He is a personal injury attorney in Tampa, and he’s still loving it,” smiled Yonker. “Still doing his thing, and now living vicariously through me. It’s like going through law school all over again. He asks me every day, ‘What did you learn in Criminal Law? I don’t remember but tell me anyway.’ It’s really cool and fun.” Now that Yonker is a Cooley Law School student herself, she wholeheartedly agrees with her father.
“Everyone wants you to learn here, and lift you up, and be successful. I feel like some places aren’t as supportive. That’s why I knew I wanted to be at Cooley from the start.”
DEAN'S FELLOW ROLE UPLIFTING
When Yonker arrived at Cooley, she knew that she wanted to do something more than be just a student but didn’t really know what that meant. She had visited the Academic Resource Center (ARC) several times early on and appreciated the interaction and caring help of the Dean’s Fellows.
“I knew then that being a Dean’s Fellow was something I might like to do,” said Yonker, “but I also knew there were requirements to be met, like needing a 3.5 GPA. So, I studied hard in class and prepared well for the finals. When I got my grades back, I was like, ‘I think I can do this!’ So, I interviewed, and here I am. I love every second of it!”
Yonker has settled into her role as Dean’s Fellow nicely. She has office hours and has been promoting herself to fellow students. She tells them that she can help with academic skills, essay writing, mind mapping, outlining, and to come see her during office hours or to schedule a time.
“What I really like about helping students is when I see them at that moment, even 10 minutes into our session, when they say, ‘Wait. I think I get the entire course. The last 15 weeks make perfect sense to me now.’ Sometimes it’s doing an outlining strategy or when we map big-picture concepts that puts things into perspective for students. I really like seeing that lightbulb go off!”
BIG-PICTURE MIND MAPPING
Yonker finds that students need help understanding how things learned in the classroom all connect. She likes to tell students that the biggest thing is when you are in class, the topic is narrow, very zoomed in. Then they leave class, and they aren’t sure how it fits into last week’s lesson.
“My strategy,” says Yonker, “that I really like to promote, is big-picture mind mapping where we take the big topics and figure out how everything that has been learned to date connects, how topics relate to other topics, and how some topics might affect others. I find that it really brings clarity. That’s the key.”
Yonker also finds that, many times, students may only need someone to tell them that they know the materials. She starts by picking their brains.
“I know they know it, and I know they’re intelligent. I know they just went to class for three hours yesterday on the topic. I know they got it. I just want to sit there and push it out of them. I let them know they’ve got it and work the thought process. They can funnel it through their brains and they always grasp it.”
Yonker believes her role as a Dean’s Fellow in the ARC is also to be a mentor. She wants to make sure each student knows that she is not going to let them fall.
“I’m not going to be like, oh, you didn’t get it. So sorry. Good luck on the exam,” stated Yonker. “Let’s take some time to figure it out and see where you have your strengths and your weaknesses.”
Much of time, Yonker feels students just doubt their abilities, that they suffer from imposter syndrome where they have a perceived doubt in what they can do, despite all they have accomplished.
“I see it all the time. Students feel like it was a mistake that they made it into law school, or wonder how they got that A in a class. Students can doubt their abilities. Sometimes they come from class, and somebody asked the most brilliant question and all they can think about is, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ or ‘That didn’t run through my mind.’ So, when we have our meeting, I just remind them that everyone is different, and you can do your part and they can do their part. That doesn’t mean that either of you is less.”
As much as law school has a stigma of being extremely competitive according to Yonker, the Cooley community has a family-like atmosphere, where the competition lies within, rather than with fellow students.
“There is definitely some underlying competition at Cooley, but it’s family oriented,” expressed Yonker. “I know that’s why I came. I toured a few places, but I just knew that Cooley was where I would be comfortable, just like my dad did. It took me awhile to find my way to law school after doing a lot of digging to figure it out. I really appreciated that Cooley was so supportive and open to my journey. That’s why I love the law and why I’m here.”
Yonker’s new mentor role may filter its way into her family even further. Her brother, Carson, is now questioning his foray into medicine.
“My brother was actually the same as me, thinking medicine was his path,” shared Yonker. “He wanted to do dermatology or something along the medical field. Now that he sees how happy I am at Cooley, he’s questioning this career choice. As much as there’s stress and it’s tiring, it’s law school after all, I am
full of joy that I have found my purpose. I knew I was missing something in my life, and I made the bold decision to change my path. Fingers crossed that, maybe, I can inspire someone else in our family to attend law school. We’re just going to have the whole Yonker clan go right through Cooley!