Konkol to pursue law degree, hopes to help victims of domestic violence

Written by Laurie Hamer on Tue, 06/04/2019 - 10:23 |
Shannon Konkol

Shannon Konkol credits outstanding professors and unique, hands-on learning experiences for helping her gain the knowledge, skills and confidence she needs to continue her journey toward her career goal: to earn a law degree and represent victims of domestic violence.

In May, Konkol, a Hatley, Wisconsin native, earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and political science with an emphasis in pre-law from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. This fall, she will begin graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she will pursue a Master of Arts in political science and a Juris Doctor in family law.

“Shannon is a remarkable person – bright, enthusiastic and caring – and it has been such a pleasure to work with her,” said Dr. Amanda Tucker, assistant professor of English at UW-Platteville and Konkol’s advisor. “Her motivation and drive have allowed her to craft an undergraduate experience that brings together her passion for political science, research and writing. It’s gratifying to know that she is putting her tremendous talent to use in a profession that focuses on advocating for and helping others.”

UW-Platteville was perfect fit

From the moment Konkol began her coursework at UW-Platteville, she knew she had made the right choice. The university’s smaller size and personal setting made her feel comfortable, its professors were outstanding and its programs provided her with a multitude of learning experiences that challenged her to explore, learn and grow.

“I grew up in a small town, so going to a smaller university was important to me,” she said. “At UW-Platteville, I got to know so many people because the class sizes were small and very close-knit. Even though UW-Platteville is a smaller university, it provides so many of the same opportunities larger universities offer.”

Konkol said the volunteer, work and internship experiences she had during her tenure at UW-Platteville were critical in helping prepare her for graduate school and beyond.

Volunteer experience, Family Advocates Inc.

As a freshman, in her “Careers in Counseling and Human Services” class, Konkol heard a staff member from Family Advocates, Inc. – a nonprofit organization in Platteville that provides services for victims of sexual assault and family and partner abuse – speak about the organization’s services and the impact they had on clients’ lives. After hearing the staff member speak, she knew, without a doubt, that she wanted to volunteer for the organization. The decision would prove to be life-changing.

While Konkol had always been interested in pursuing a career in politics, she hadn’t been sure exactly what she wanted to do in the field. When she started assisting at Family Advocates, however, her career path became clear.

“I really found my passion when I began volunteering for Family Advocates,” said Konkol. “Through volunteering, I saw the impact Family Advocates workers had on those they were helping, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be committed to helping women recover and rebuild their lives after being hurt by the person they thought they loved.”

After connecting with Family Advocates Inc. and its clients, Konkol knew it was what she wanted to do after she graduated, so she spoke with one of her professors, Dr. Shan Sappleton, assistant professor of political science at UW-Platteville.

“Dr. Sappleton encouraged me to look into the legal side of domestic violence, which clicked for me,” said Konkol. “Thanks to the meaningful volunteer experience I had at Family Advocates, I intend to pursue a career as a lawyer who advocates for women and others affected by domestic violence.” 

Work experience, International Programs, UW-Platteville

As a junior, Konkol had an opportunity to gain hands-on work experience as a professional writing specialist and front desk attendant for the university’s International Programs Office.

“I enjoyed being able to take the skills I was using in my English classes and apply them to real-world situations, such as editing websites and creating professional material,” she said.

She also enjoyed being able to interact with international students on a near-daily basis.

“The university really encourages students to meet and work with people outside of those who are similar to you,” she said. “They provide so many opportunities to learn about different cultures and backgrounds that make it possible to feel confident when working with people who are different from you.”

Internship experience, League of Women Voters, The Washington Center, Washington, D.C.

As a senior, Konkol had still another hands-on learning opportunity that helped prepare her for her future career. In January, she interned with the League of Women Voters through The Washington Center in Washington, D.C., an organization that provides internships for students from hundreds of colleges and universities as well as young professionals from throughout the nation.

As an intern, under the guidance of a project manager, Konkol helped update the League of Women Voters’ Vote411 website. She also participated in LEAD classes, where she learned about topics such as networking and personal branding. Once each week, she also attended a night course, “Peace and Conflict in International Relations.”

“Not only did I fall in love with the city of Washington, D.C. and plan to be back there next summer, I loved having an experience a lot of students don’t get while getting their bachelor’s degree,” said Konkol. “I was able to be in our nation’s capital doing work that is important to me and my interests. This experience has really helped me stand out in interviews and when talking with other colleagues and students.”

Read the blog Konkol wrote while interning for the League of Women Voters.

Professors, friends critical to success

As she looks back on her educational experience at UW-Platteville, Konkol said her professors and her friends were instrumental to her academic and personal success.

“The professors at UW-Platteville were really amazing at making sure students’ education is beneficial to them and what they want to do with their futures,” she said. “They pushed me to be a better writer and researcher, which will benefit me in law school. They always took the time to meet with me and discuss problems I was having in my classes or help me make decisions about my future. They were more than just teachers, they were my mentors.”

Konkol was especially thankful for the guidance she received from Sappleton.

“Dr. Sappleton quickly became one of my favorite professors, not only because I loved her classes and how knowledgeable she was, but because she took so much time writing me multiple recommendation letters, meeting with me to discuss law school options, and even coming to a presentation I had in one of my English classes,” said Konkol. “She, and all of my professors, really cared about their students.”

“Shannon is an exceptional student,” said Sappleton. “I’ve enjoyed having her in class. She is passionate about learning and is a true advocate for others. The empathy and care she expresses will undoubtedly make her an excellent family lawyer. I expect that she will be one of those future leaders of the country that I often half-jokingly tell my junior scholars they are about to become.”

Konkol said supportive, caring friends were also critical to her success.

“One experience I will never forget is the impact the sorority Gamma Phi Beta had on me,” she said. “This special group of women helped shape me to become a more confident woman. I love my fellow members, and this sorority will always be a part of my life.”

Hopes for the future

As Konkol looks to the future, she feels happy and excited about the adventures that await her.

“I am really looking forward to my law classes and being able to connect things I am hearing in the news and on TV to actual laws and court cases,” she said. “I do not want to be the stereotypical court-appointed attorney who does not know what they are doing or does not care about the client. I want to be the public servant who really tries to make a difference in people’s lives, especially those who sometimes aren’t given a chance or a voice.”