September 2, 2021

A sense of belonging.

South Dakota native Mariah Zell ’17 can thank her high school online gaming friends for helping her find Mitchell College, which she says was a good choice for her undergraduate education.

“In high school, I had a group of friends I played games with online and most were from the East Coast.  When it came time to look for a college, I thought ‘Why not try to go out there?’ I toured different schools and liked Mitchell the best – the location on the Thames River, the wonderful people, both students and faculty, who eventually helped me grow a lot as a person, and how welcoming and inclusive the school was.”

That sense of belonging ultimately helped Mariah, who was surprised by how homesick she felt, as she experienced a bit of culture shock as a new student.

“I did not expect to be so homesick, but I overcame it by getting involved in clubs and activities. I made a lot of good friends in the theater department and participated in two plays and the musical ‘Hair.’ I also was a resident assistant and worked as a student ambassador.”

In addition, studying criminal justice with a pre-law concentration, she participated in the Criminal Justice Club and also volunteered her time in the New London community and around Mitchell, including a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter and doing a campus cleanup.

Inspired to study criminal law by both her father, a South Dakota judge with whom, growing up, she often discussed certain aspects of his job and the legal system, and a mentor with a passion for the legal profession, Mariah pursued law school after leaving Mitchell. She recently graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is now studying for the bar exam.

At law school, drawing on course content from some of her Mitchell classes, such as elements of crime, branches of government and constitutional law topics, Mariah also performed 400 volunteer hours through clubs focused on mental health and well-being and law-oriented community service.

She currently works at Kowitz Law, a private law firm in Lindstrom, Minnesota, where she plans to continue working after taking the bar exam. She says she will draw on the Mitchell Abilities almost every day when practicing law.

“As an attorney, I must have strong critical and creative thinking, communication, analysis, and problem solving skills when approaching legal problems and dealing with clients, opposing counsel, and judicial officers. I will be relying on the diversity/global perspectives, ethics, and social interaction abilities when working with a diverse client base from a variety of different backgrounds. While I luckily do not need to be a technological genius to adequately perform my job, I still must be proficient enough to be able to access court records and file a variety of documents to the court online.”

As a law student, Mariah also worked for the City of Minneapolis City Attorney’s office.

“The big question is which side of the law I will ultimately work on. There are things I like and drawbacks to both criminal defense and prosecution. Right now I am enjoying my time on the defense side, but we’ll see where the future will lead me.”

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