1L Student Q&A: Shana Hurley '21

Shana Hurley

1.  Please tell us about yourself. 
I grew up in Weston, Connecticut. It’s a small town with phenomenal public schools. Growing up there afforded me incredible opportunities which too many children in Connecticut cannot access. As an undergraduate, I studied Political Science and International Relations at Tufts University. I had several roles in politics and policy, and I learned from those experiences about the importance of being close to the people who are disproportionately impacted by policy decisions, and I wanted to be closer to them. I became an educator and organizer, working with students and their families in California and Connecticut in pursuit of educational equity. After spending three years helping open and run a middle school in Bridgeport, I most recently served as a Policy Fellow in the Office of Student Supports and Organizational Effectiveness at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

2.  What first made you want to go to law school?
I have always wanted to go to law school. In fact, my husband recently found my fifth-grade yearbook in which I declared that I wanted to be a lawyer. For me, I think the more salient question is why go to law school now, especially after working for the past eight years. Before making the commitment of time and money, I wanted to be sure that law school would make sense for what I hope to accomplish. I feel privileged to be here now because I have learned from experience that law can create, solve, and even prevent problems. Law can make systems more equitable and individuals’ lives easier. I am excited to learn critical thinking and advocacy skills in law school to help me change the rules and advance equity in Connecticut. Law and policy are the only means with the scale needed to fundamentally alter the systems in which so many of our young people are denied what they need to succeed.

3.  Why did you choose UConn Law?
First and foremost, I chose UConn Law because Connecticut is my home and I am passionate about making it better. (Despite what we all are reading in the op-ed pages, some millennials want to be here!) This moment is critical for our state, and we need smart and dedicated people to help us find a path forward. I am happy to be in Hartford which enables me to learn in my classes and clinics while staying connected to my community. Connecticut is a phenomenal place to work in any field because it’s small and tight knit. I know and can point to amazing people in every community doing great work. I’ve heard that the Connecticut Bar is like that too, very collegial. Second, I instantly felt at home in the UConn Law community. The campus is gorgeous. Starting with my first visit, the students and faculty I met -- especially Dean DeMeola -- have been authentic, open and warm. I am also in awe of UConn’s network of alumni who work in child advocacy and education law. Advocates like Sarah Eagan, Katie Roy, Peter Haberlandt and Mark Sommaruga are simultaneously accessible and inspiring. The community clearly extends beyond law school. Finally, I can’t complain about the price! I am not interested in mergers and acquisitions. An affordable law school will afford me the opportunity to work in the public interest without drowning in debt.

4.  What are you most excited for in these next years?
Everyone says that law school reshapes how you think and write. I am excited to retrain my brain and learn new ways of thinking about issues. More specifically, I have a strong interest in education law and child advocacy. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about those subjects from practitioners who are leaders in their fields, such as in Thomas Mooney’s education law class or Martha Stone’s Center for Children’s Advocacy Clinic. That said, I am open to being surprised! I keep hearing wonderful things about tax law at UConn from people who didn’t expect to love it.

5.  What do you like to do in your spare time?
I got married last weekend and, for a while, most of my spare time was dedicated to DIY wedding preparation! Outside of that, I enjoy getting involved with my community through voluntarism, political campaigns and policy advocacy. I’m very involved with Leadership for Educational Equity, an organization that helps teachers engage civically in their communities. I’m not the best at relaxing but, when I do, I enjoy reading, cooking and slow running. You probably wouldn’t know it from looking at me but I ran my first marathon in March!

6.  What is your dream career?
My dream career would allow me to have an impact on policy while also advocating for the rights of and learning from the people who know the most about the problems -- students and educators. I am passionate about the architecture of opportunity inequity in Connecticut. Our preponderance of racially concentrated areas of affluence and poverty are a consequence of state and local policies, like exclusionary zoning, that segregate rich and poor families. Ample research demonstrates that exposure to multiple facets of disadvantage (often as a direct result of segregation) is worse for a child’s academic achievement, health, and overall well-being than any single indicator of poverty. It also means that children in affluent communities are being denied the opportunity to experience and be enriched by the perspectives and experiences of people from diverse backgrounds. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s policymakers are often loath to address the causes of residential and school segregation. I want to use my power and privilege to help integrate our schools and communities. It will take time to restructure deeply entrenched systems of disparity, so we must mitigate the disparate impacts of segregation by providing resources commensurate to students’ needs and creating as many high-quality seats as possible. I am proud to have helped open a school of choice in a city with few good options. In the near term, I hope to continue to work in policy, advocacy or the law to spur legislation that will provide more high-quality choices for low-income students by improving existing options or creating new ones.