ASU’s International Rule of Law program allows attorney to see the world in a whole new light

December 4, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Katie Surma had accomplished a great deal before she got to Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where she also played on the soccer team, then went on to the Duquesne University School of Law, where she got her Juris Doctor. Katie Surma, a soon to be Master of Laws (LLM) graduate from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Download Full Image

Majoring in the history of art and architecture as an undergrad helped spark her interest in law.

“Undergrad set the stage for law school, because it informed my understanding of injustice and inequality in the world and throughout human history,” she said. “Law school was attractive to me because I saw the law as a means to rectify those inequities.”

She joined the Eckert Seamans law firm after graduating from Duquesne, but remained interested in continuing her legal education.

“I value learning and development and have had a long-standing interest in rule of law and governance,” she said. “When I saw ASU’s LLM (Master of Laws) program, I knew it would be a great fit for me.”

And from there, she joined the International Rule of Law and Security program, which took her first to Washington, D.C., for a semester of study, and then Hong Kong.

“While in D.C., there is an opportunity to extern with a number of important institutions, and I had the good fortune of working for Center for Civilians in Conflict, which is an organization working to protect civilians in conflict zones,” she said. “I got to work with some pretty extraordinary individuals there and in Hong Kong. Over the past summer, I was very lucky to work for Dennis Kwok, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council representing the legal functional constituency.”

She was inspired by the work of Kwok and his team, who she said are vigorously defending the rule of law and Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy from China.

“Working outside of the U.S. gave me a fresh perspective on our political system and changed a lot of biases and assumptions I held toward U.S. political parties,” she said. “There are certain democratic core values that transcend party and that we as a country should stand for both at home and abroad. Going forward, I hope to continue doing work that defends and promotes those values.”

While continuing to work for her law firm, she hopes to also do work that advances rule of law, democracy and human rights, with a focus on Asia and, in particular, Hong Kong. And she says she can’t speak more highly of the International Rule of Law and Security program and its leadership.

“The program is engaging and pragmatic, and provides students with opportunities to gain real-world experience,” she said. 

Lauren Dickerson

Marketing and communications coordinator, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


Graduate helping youth at risk for substance abuse, suicide

December 4, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Arizona State University master of counseling graduate Marlee Seymour said she was always interested in the human condition, even at an early age. ASU master of counseling 2018 graduate Marlee Seymour Marlee Seymour. Download Full Image

“My mother had a background in psychology and criminal justice, so I was somewhat familiar with it because of her work,” said Seymour, who will be recognized as the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts Outstanding Graduate at ASU commencement ceremonies next week.

Her own experience with a counselor solidified her interest in psychology when she was 15.

“Having someone who would listen to me and offer me her undivided, unconditional attention made such a difference in my life as a teenager,” Seymour said. “It really got me interested in human thought and behavior.

“But the ‘aha’ moment for me in realizing I wanted to continue my education in the direction of mental health counseling, especially with at-risk youth, came near the end of my undergraduate work, when I lost a close and dear friend to opioid addiction,” she explained.

“I grew up in a rural area of southern New Jersey, where the opioid epidemic has grown rampant in the last five years or so. I know way too many people — friends, former classmates — who have lost everything due to opioid addiction. I also know many people who have become abstinent from substances and have begun living healthy, happy lives with very fulfilling relationships,” emphasized Seymour.

“I have always wanted to help people who are going through hardship, and I believe counseling is the best way I can do that.”

After graduation, she plans to become licensed as an associate counselor in Arizona and begin working with a community mental health or integrated health care agency.

“My goal is to work with adolescents and young adults who may be at risk for problems like substance use, violence and suicide.”

Seymour talked to ASU Now about her time at ASU and her future plans.

Question:   What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer:  I learned that you can’t help everyone in the way you want to or in the way you think you should. This is something that was taught throughout the program and that I personally experienced during my internship. Some people don’t put in the necessary work that counseling requires; some people are not yet ready to change; some people do not yet have the skills to tackle the major problems in their lives. It can be frustrating when this happens, but accepting that I can’t help everyone has been very important in my own self-care as a counselor.

Q:  Why did you choose ASU?

A:  I chose to continue my graduate training here because I loved my undergraduate experience at ASU. I wanted to stay in Arizona, and ASU’s master of counseling program is one of the most highly regarded programs in the region. I knew I would receive a quality graduate education in a thriving, active environment.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A:  My practicum supervisor, Dr. Angela Catena, taught me some very important lessons during my first counseling experiences. I would say the most important thing Dr. Catena taught me was to always think, "What does it mean to this person and their life that x is happening to them right now?" We all create meaning in certain life events or feelings or relationships, and I learned that it is imperative in counseling for people to discover and own the meaning they are creating in their lives.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A:  Go the extra mile, even when you don’t have to. Don’t do extra just for grades or recognition. Get out there and go out of your way to enhance your own learning, or to do good for and with others. Your education is an amazing privilege, and with such a supportive system at ASU, you can really learn and study anything you want here.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I love the Secret Garden at the Tempe campus. It is such a serene spot, perfect for a quiet moment tucked away from all of the hustle and bustle.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A:  With $40 million I would try to tackle the environmental crisis. I don’t know how far $40 million would go in that arena, but environmental issues are very important to me. I believe that to take care of the Earth, we need to act like we are borrowing it — “return it in just as good a condition as when you got it.” I think a good use of $40 million would be providing environmentally friendly (reusable, compostable) household goods and supplies to low-income families, and building community gardens where children and teens can learn to garden and compost.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts