JD/MBA student learns adaptability is key to opportunities with joint degree

by Sarah Carlson,

  • JD/MBA student Emily Dougherty
    JD/MBA student Emily Dougherty

From her room in South Korea, Emily Dougherty types out an email describing her experiences in the JD/MBA program at Willamette University. A third-year student in the four-year program, Dougherty relishes the time when she can do what she loves best — traveling.

In the past two years, she’s spent time in Brazil, Germany, China and South Africa on different educational trips. In South Korea, she visited a friend and took additional trips to Malaysia, Singapore and Bali. She’s been exploring — and learning.

“Most of my trips have been for educational purposes, but even when they are not, I find myself interested in the cultural and business opportunities abroad,” Dougherty said. “I am a firm believer that traveling exposes you to new opportunities and opens your mind to others’ points of view.”

Dougherty is native to Salem. She got her bachelor’s degree from Western Oregon University just down the road in Monmouth. With a lifelong interest in the law, she applied to start her JD at Willamette Law in 2015 — but she didn’t intend to get an MBA, too.

As a law student, Dougherty said her first year sometimes felt lonely. There’s a lot of work, and for the most part it’s done independently, so she said a lot of responsibility falls to the individual students. After coming to terms with the independence required in law school, Dougherty went on a one-credit study abroad trip to Brazil and met some JD/MBA students who encouraged her to go for a dual-degree. So, she went for it and applied to the JD/MBA program with the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette. Then, she had to adapt.

“AGSM works in teams for nearly everything they do,” she said. “I had to rewire my brain to work in groups.”

Dougherty found that her colleagues in the joint degree program had similar experiences to hers. She and her small cohort of five other students get together to study, vent and motivate each other to do more. She said building relationships through the program has pushed her to look at things differently and has created a support system she calls priceless.

“Working in a group setting, where your grade truly depends upon others’ actions, can be very frustrating,” she said. “Many of us came in with the mindset that we will do all the work and the group will get a high grade, and that wasn’t the case. The key was taking the time to know your group members, assess their strengths and weaknesses together, and help the individuals improve.”

For the JD/MBA program, Dougherty took her first year of classes at Willamette Law and her second at AGSM. During her third and fourth years, she’ll take two-thirds of her courses at Law and one-third at AGSM, though she anticipates graduating a semester early in winter 2018. There is a clear difference in the schools, she said, but also an advantage.

“You learn in completely different ways at the two schools,” she said, “but you come out much more adaptable and marketable because of it.”

Dougherty hopes to combine her degree and her love for travel into a job practicing international family law or international business law. In 2016, she completed coursework and an externship in Cape Town, South Africa, and she hopes to eventually return there or South America to work and live permanently. She plans to use her JD as her main source for work, but said her MBA will supplement it tremendously.

“Having a JD/MBA opens many doors for me,” Dougherty said. “Although getting a JD was my primary goal, my MBA allows me to essentially speak another language. It provides me opportunities in the business world and helps me understand how corporations function.

“Even though I am not quite sure what profession I will end up in, I know that I can navigate the legal or corporate world because of the education Willamette has provided me.”

About Willamette University College of Law

Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today's legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.

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