Class of 2014 Most Competitive in School History
Andrew Lee, Grace Bielawski and Janet Martini are among the Law School's entering Class of 2014, which was selected via the most competitive application process in the school's history.
The 357 members of the University of Virginia School of Law’s entering Class of 2014 were selected via the most competitive application process in the school’s history and boast the highest-ever median undergraduate grade-point average. (Class of 2014 Profile)
Members of the class, who start courses today, were chosen from a pool of 7,410 applicants, and yielded the school a new record-low acceptance rate of 9.3 percent. The class’ record-high median GPA was 3.86, while its median LSAT score of 170 matched the previous year’s entering class.
“This was the most difficult year ever in which to gain admission to the Law School,” said Jason Wu Trujillo ’01, who led admissions efforts until he joined the Law School Foundation as a leadership gifts officer in June. “This class also set a new high-water mark in terms of academic qualifications. I could not be more proud of my final class. I’ll look forward to seeing their achievements as alumni, especially in my new role.”
Of the 357 first-year students, 161 are women and 196 are men. One out of four class members identified themselves as an ethnic minority. They come from 41 states and Washington, D.C., as well as South Korea, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and China.
Deborah Platt Majoras '89, chief legal officer and secretary of Procter & Gamble and former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, welcomed first-year, transfer and exchange students to the Law School on Aug. 22. Dean Paul G. Mahoney, former Senior Assistant Dean for Admission Jason Wu Trujillo '01 and Student Bar Association President Sanjiv Tata '12 also spoke.
First-year student Andrew Lee comes to Virginia from an unusual path. Growing up in Southern California, he received little formal schooling, as his father kidnapped him at the age of 7 to prevent his mother from taking him to China. For roughly the next seven years, Lee and his father lived out of a van and a Nissan Sentra while his father worked as a courier.
“When I was a child, I grew up afraid of the law,” Lee said. “My father and I lived out of our vehicles and we were constantly afraid of being arrested. For years, we were always afraid that we’d be discovered, afraid of being pulled over, afraid of the police asking questions. All of that fear of the law and that feeling of powerlessness was part of my interest in wanting to study the law. I wanted to feel like I know it more — to know it and to be able to confront it.”
When he was 14, Lee met the wife of his father’s co-worker. She soon became his adoptive mother. “Shortly after I met them, she took me under her wing and I moved in,” he said.
At the time, his adoptive mother was taking graduate-level courses in English literature at California State University, Long Beach, and she allowed him to tag along with her to class.
“The first class I ever had was a graduate course in literary theory, the kind of class that people always dread. But I just loved it,” he said. “I was reading Marx and Saussure and Derrida. Without having to worry about grades and stuff, it was just fun.”
Soon, other professors allowed Lee to audit their classes, giving him an opportunity to study history, math, English, anthropology and ancient history. It was the first formal education he had received since second grade.
While only a teenager and with little education, Lee impressed the professors enough that they wrote letters on his behalf and convinced Long Beach City College to admit him as a student. He went on to earn his associate’s degree in English literature from the community college in 2008.
Lee then enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles. He made the dean’s list every quarter before graduating with honors in 2010.
“Throughout all of my undergraduate education, I always worked really hard, especially during the first few years to make up for my lack of education,” he said. “I did have to work harder than a lot of other people to make up ground. It’s always been really fun too, though.”
An animal lover, Lee was attracted to UVA in part because of its Animal Law Program. With a law degree, he intends to work on animal rights issues, such as reforming industrial agriculture practices. “I’d like to ensure better living conditions [for the animals],” he said. “That, I think, would lower the aggregate suffering in the world.”
More than two-thirds of Class of 2014 obtained work experience before heading to law school, in a range of jobs, including as a casino pit boss, nuclear submarine radiation safety officer, investigative journalist, park ranger, professor of economics and a philharmonic orchestra cellist.
First-year student Janet Martini spent five years as a U.S. Army engineer officer and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Martini, a self-described “Army brat” who graduated from high school in Stafford, Va., was inspired to join the military after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“I didn’t really decide I wanted to go into the Army myself until after 9/11,” she said. “That was my senior year of high school. There was just a feeling of helplessness. You felt a desire to do something. For me, the way that translated into action was joining the military.”
Martini studied politics at the U.S. Military Academy and graduated in 2006. Following graduation, she picked Army engineering as a branch, as she didn’t want a desk job.
“I wanted something that would challenge me, push me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I wanted to be able to get out there and actually do something.”
A second lieutenant, Martini was assigned to the 92nd engineer battalion at Fort Stewart in Georgia and was deployed to Iraq in May 2007. Her unit’s missions included constructing facilities for a tactical operations center at Camp Striker in the Baghdad area and upgrading electrical systems.
She was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2010. While there, Martini was responsible for handling a variety of administrative duties, including human resources, finance, legal and other tasks. While she was deployed, she traveled to Bagram Air Field to take the LSAT.
Martini has long wanted to practice law.
“I had always wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “I did debate in high school. I had a couple ACL reconstructions in high school, so that’s what got me started in debate, otherwise I was a runner. I just felt it was important for me to go into the military first.”
Martini continues to run today, competing in marathons and ultramarathons.
She said chose Virginia because of its excellent academic reputation and its enjoyable environment.
“It’s an environment where students actually like to have fun and they’re friendly,” she said. “It’s an enjoyable experience. Everyone gets that, at this level, [law school is] going to be a very demanding educational experience. But having that other component too was very important and it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
First-year Grace Bielawski of Tulsa, Okla., was the first member of her family to go to college, thanks to a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas.
As an undergrad, Bielawski said, she developed a passion for policy, the law, public service and giving a voice to underrepresented groups.
“Coming to UVA, I’m interested in animal-protection issues, child advocacy, poverty law, really exploring helping clients who are underrepresented in the legal system,” she said.
Bielawski was president of the college’s student government in her senior year, a role in which she advocated on behalf of students before the university administration, the local city council, the Texas legislature and the entire University of Texas system.
In the fall of 2009, she took an Archer Fellowship, which sends Texas students to Washington for a semester. She worked in the government affairs office of the Humane Society of the United States.
“I helped with their federal and state legislative initiatives,” she said. “That was a great outlet for me to improve my advocacy skills.”
Bielawski also honed her skills by competing in undergraduate moot court competitions. Her team won a state tournament in Texas and a regional championship in Arkansas before placing in the top 16 in a national competition.
Bielawski decided to attend Virginia, she said, because it produces “well-rounded people who [are] not only able to express ideas about the law, but also able to build relationships and be effective in the legal work force.”
Bielawski said she is excited to interact with other members of the Class of 2014.
“What I’m really looking forward to,” she said, “is getting a chance to meet people who — not to sound cheesy about it — are going to change the world.”