Sustainability classes inspire ASU Law student to chart a new course

December 4, 2018

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

From a young age, Edgard Francis Espiritu knew he wanted to be a lawyer. Edgard Francis Espiritu, soon to be Juris Doctor (JD) from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Download Full Image

“It’s always been kind of engrained in my head, ever since I was a kid,” said Espiritu, who grew up in the Bay Area, in Fremont, California.

He specifically remembers his grandmother, who noticed he had a knack for arguing, telling him at age 9 that he should grow up to be a lawyer. His mother and other members of his family work in the legal field, so it was a natural career choice.

An English major at the University of California, Davis, Espiritu was seeking a law school outside of his home state, but not too far away. Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law was the perfect fit, so he enrolled, planning to become a criminal prosecutor. But in the midst of his studies, there came a change in the script.

“Funny enough, when I was in my second year, I signed up for water law just because it fit in my schedule,” he said. “And Professor (Rhett) Larson, who taught the course, sparked an interest in me wanting to look into more sustainability courses. So from there, I ended up taking environmental law, and I’m currently taking energy law with Professor (Troy) Rule. And because of that, I was able to get exposed to a sustainability mentorship.”

Espiritu now wants to work in the environmental field, with designs on a job with a federal regulatory agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And he is thankful for the broad and varied legal education he received.

“ASU exposed me to so many different aspects of the law and different fields,” he said. “I came into law school thinking I was going to pursue criminal prosecution, and now I’m walking out with a very high interest in environmental and sustainability law. ASU definitely helped expand my horizons in terms of what kind of law I want to practice.”

During his time at ASU Law, he served as an associate articles editor for the Law Journal for Social Justice and founded, along with other Filipino students, the Filipino American Law Student Association.

“We did get a few raised eyebrows, given that there is already an established Asian law student organization,” he said. “However, FALSA was formed with the intent to stand as a supplement to APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Student Association), because we felt that the legal issues within the Filipino communities, both in the United States and abroad, were numerous enough that starting the organization to raise awareness of the issues made sense.”

Espiritu said ASU Law was supportive throughout his time in law school, noting the numerous externship opportunities the career services office helped him secure.

“No matter where you go to law school, it’s going to be a pretty difficult journey,” he said. “But ASU Law has so much to offer. Rigorous academics, and so many different opportunities in terms of the types of law you can practice, and the different types of classes you can take. And the classes are taught by faculty who are so well-renowned in their fields. In fact, the professors are what really makes the experience worth it.”

Lauren Dickerson

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


ASU Law helps Puerto Rico native through turmoil of Hurricane Maria to pursue baseball dream

December 4, 2018

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

Growing up in Puerto Rico, where sports are embedded in the culture, Chanel Zapata developed a passion for baseball early in life. Chanel Zapata, Soon to be Graduate with a Master of Sports Law and Business from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Download Full Image

“It just has a lot to do with my identity and being from Puerto Rico. I don’t like to say baseball is who you are, it’s what you do. But in Puerto Rico, it can be a little twisted,” she said with a laugh.

The San Juan native, 23, left Puerto Rico to attend the University of Tampa, but her sights remained firmly set on a career in baseball. So when she heard about the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law master of sports law and business program at Arizona State University, she knew it would be the perfect fit.

From day one of orientation, it exceeded her expectations. She was impressed with the litany of guest speakers and networking events, and perhaps most notably, having a class taught by former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

But during her first semester, tragedy struck back home in Puerto Rico in the form of Hurricane Maria.

She wasn’t able to reach her mother by phone for a month. During that time, her mom lost her job, and her brother was unable to attend school.

“Violence was very prevalent,” Zapata said. “There was a lot of looting in San Juan. It came to the point where my family had no power, no clean water.”

Her mother and brother were forced to relocate to Florida, and all the turmoil made it nearly impossible for Zapata to focus on her studies.

“There was so much uncertainty in my life, and I was here alone,” she said. “It was so tough, and school was not a priority in that moment.”

But Zapata was a priority for the school. And she said the people at ASU Law went out of their way to help her through the crisis.

“The faculty really supported me, which I thought was incredible,” she said. “They kept checking in on me and making sure that I was OK, and that meant so much to me and my family.”

And that kind of support is what she hopes to offer in a career as a liaison for Latin American baseball players.

Chanel Zapata

“My goal is to become an educational and cultural coordinator,” she said. “Helping the players learn English as a second language or Spanish as a second language. Helping them adapt to the culture here in the United States or wherever they’re settling into. And over 90 percent of the players in the minor leagues do not go to the 40- or 25-man roster, so I want to be able to help guide their careers and figure out what is their next step, what are they going to do after baseball is over.”

But first, a special graduation celebration with her mother is in order.

“I’m super excited because my mom has never been to Arizona,” Zapata said. “She’s flying in for the commencement, and I’m hoping to show her Sedona and other parts of the state and everything that I do here.”

Lauren Dickerson

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