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So Many Words of Wisdom

A Collaborative Column by MJ-LEL Students for  MJ-LEL Students

We asked our graduating class for words of inspiration and tips and if they have a lot of great suggestions.  We thought we would preserve the voice and present the works in their entirety, with a little bio from each.

- Elizabeth Townsend Gard, Deputy Director of MJ-LEL and John E. Koerner Endowed Professor of Law, Tulane University Law School

1: Advice to the Incoming Class

Where Do I Begin by Kaleigh Cope

Kaleigh is from Nashville, TN, and refers to herself as an “untraditional” student (i.e. “someone who took way longer than they should to figure out what they wanted to do as an undergraduate, or otherwise known as pissing away my college years HAH!”).  She described herself as struggling until she found her niche of Human Resources.  She wrote, “I love everything Human Resources stand for. I love interacting with employees and being there in their time of need.  I love educating someone on their 401ks or their employee benefits.  This fire inside of me when I found my true passion was unmatched to anything I had ever experienced, and from that time forward, I haven’t stopped.  That’s why I had to be part of this program here at Tulane.”  And so what was her advice to the incoming class?


“Just by being here, you are making the best career decision of your life.  You will learn more than you probably want to at times, but I can promise that you will be so valued by your employer, peers, and/or future endeavors with the education you receive from Tulane’s MJ-LEL program.  My best advice that I can give would be that you get out what you put into this program.  If you truly want to be the best, most well-informed HR legal expert in your HR department, then listen well and often.”

“Where Do I Begin?” © by Kaleigh Cope is licensed under Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.

Don’t Sweat It by Jessica Finnegan

Jessica graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2001, and received a Masters in Business Administration from UMASS-Amherst.  As a military veteran, Army helicopter pilot; Global Human Resources Leader; and mom of three teenagers, it is not surprising that she would enjoy a good challenge, which is why during the pandemic, she decided to enroll in the MJ-LEL program!  She had lived for over a decade overseas and working in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, she and her family had moved back to the United States. “recognized my human resource knowledge and experiences have been more international with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) specific Labor Laws, so I thought this Program at Tulane would be a perfect fit.”  And so what was Jessica’s advice in embarking on the program? Jessica made a list:


  1. Always attend live sessions.  (They are voluntary, until the last semester).

  2. Never be afraid to ask for help from professors or fellow classmates

  3. Stay on top of your work and don’t procrastinate

  4. If you fall behind, reach out to your professor.

  5. Get to know your peers.  (Students form really strong bonds).

  6. Do the readings.

  7. Take notes.

  8. Take a risk and participate in class.

  9. Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember why you are in the program.

 MJ-LEL Capstone © 2022 by Jessica Finnegan is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

“You are Definitely Going to Learn…”  by Talisha Williams Crook

Talisha Williams Crooks was born and raised in Connecticut. After graduating from undergrad in 1997, she joined the United States Army, and now reside in Georgia. Upon leaving the military she entered the field of Human Resources and have been in the industry since 2002. She met my husband of 22 years in the military and she is the mother of two sons.  She considers herself a life long learner and have already obtained two graduate degrees thus far. She decided to enroll in the MJ-LEL program to gain“certified” legal knowledge in Labor and Employment Law. "This program has enlightened me a great deal. I was confident about what I knew before this program, but I am more confident in what I’ve learned thus far, and I am certain that it will serve me well."  And so her advice?

'Hello incoming class! First let me congratulate you on beginning the MJ-LEL program at Tulane.  You are definitely going to learn a great deal from this program. I know many of you are in pursuit of this program for a variety of reasons, and I would like to direct my feedback to the HR professionals who are enrolled. The one thing I want to focus on is understanding the "facts of the law".

In our industry, depending on how you entered into HR, whether it was directly after college upon completion of a human resources degree, please understand that what you learned in that program will be in no way comparable to what you will learn in the MJ program. You will add to your knowledge of the business practice with another key layer: the law.  In HR, we are governed by laws, policies and practices. Policies can be rewritten and practices can change. Here we learn to contextualize policies within the law itself. You learn how to read, interpret and research the law, and how it is used as the foundation in the courts. Bringing that back to the everyday helps you understand compliance and implementation of policies and practices, like when a company faces discrimination claims. You see the whole picture and understand.

Good luck to you all!"

 MJ-LEL Capstone © 2022 by Jessica Finnegan is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Looking Back by Erika Flory

Erika is from Lafayette, Louisiana, and is currently completing her second masters program. She has worked in health care and education as an HR professional, and is currently an Executive Recruiter for a charter school.  


“Looking back from when I first started this program to where I am today with almost completing this program, I would recommend a few items when and if reentering into this program. 


  1. The first thing I would recommend is to fully review the course and the way it is equipped. I had a few hiccups when reviewing courses and not realizing the amount of work it required to complete the course while balancing my personal life. For example, I was planning to take the negotiating class along with the sexual harassment class in which both classes involved a heavy amount of group work. This was a no go for me as I am in a position where I have to travel quite a bit for work and I could not devote my time in both courses.  I was able to drop one course and plan to take it the following semester. 

  2. Another recommendation I would make would be to have time management with a core calendar. I quickly learned to use my calendar and to block hours of time to use to read and prepare for assignments for each course that I had to take. This has helped me tremendously. By having this visual on my calendar of seeing 2-3 hours blocked would in a way force me to complete my tasks understanding this time blocked is solely for class preparation.  

  3. The third recommendation would be giving myself grace. With personal things that had come up, it was great to get reassurance from program administration  who helped me with the personal things that I endured. I would often be my hardest critic when I did not complete work on time and I have learned that if I try my best, then that's all that I can do to do well with this program.


Those last sentiments are so true.  We do care about each student, and we work with you when things come up.  That’s a perfect transition to Kimberly Green.


You’ve Got This by Kimberly Green

“Expect life to get in the way! The most honest thing that I can say:  life will get in the way, and you will want to quit. You will want to quit often. Unfortunately, none of us have a crystal ball to see our life two years out. When you sign up for this program, so many things can happen. Don’t get me wrong, not everything that happens may be bad, but it will be involved. I faced tragedies like losing loved ones, which led to other issues. But I’ve also faced things like getting a new job, sending my son off to the Navy, and purchasing a new home. Life can be time consuming, and this program WILL be demanding. You will have to find a balance. If you have the luxury of a support system, use them. If you don’t, be sure to find a positive outlet to keep you motivated. Take time to breathe, and whatever you do… DON’T QUIT!”

Al’s Advice by Allison Lessard

“Lean in. Lean in to all of it and be open. When I started this program I was excited, nervous and slightly skeptical. Which... ironically is how I think I approach most things, but we don't have enough time for that. I truly thought I would learn what I needed to learn and be done, but I quickly realized that getting the most out of this program was being truly open to all that it has to offer. Connecting with classmates, engaging in online content for our program, and approaching assignments with 100% effort has completely changed my entire experience. Yes, it's cheesy, but if you do more than show-up you will get more than another degree.”


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