SNC Students background


Great Starts: Karen Suarez Jimenez ’20
Portrait of student Karen Suarez Jimenez

Great Starts: Karen Suarez Jimenez ’20

From time to time, we like to showcase a new SNC grad who’s entered the workplace or grad school. Success stories like these are pretty common. In fact, 95 percent of SNC's Class of 2022 alumni who responded to a survey said they were employed, in grad school or doing service work within nine months of graduating.

Hometown: Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico
Graduation year: 2020
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, with a minor in English and a pre-law certificate
Plans after graduation: Attending the University of Wisconsin Law School

What’s it like to be starting law school?

It’s amazing! I’m the first college graduate in my family and first to pursue a law degree. Being a first-generation student for undergrad was an intense but incredible experience. Starting law school seems like a daunting challenge at times, but it’s an absolute honor to be able to be the first of hopefully a long line of academics and future scholars not only in my family, but for my community. There’s a lack of Latinx women in the field of law, so being able to contribute to changing that is very rewarding.

Why did you decide to go into law?

Originally, I wanted to be a teacher. There was a wonderful scholarship offered for multicultural students to receive a degree then come back to teach in Janesville, Wis., where I was raised. With that scholarship, I was going to be able to afford school at St. Norbert for all four years. But then I was offered a grant through the Norbertines that covered my tuition, and that offered me more freedom for what I wanted to do.

Then an experience before my junior year made me think more about where I was headed. I was interning at a local library when a man walked in with his daughter. He spoke Spanish, no English. He had gotten pulled over because of a busted tail light, but he was also undocumented so that led to more legal proceedings. He had his hands covering his daughter’s ears to protect her from worry. I realized in that moment that I could only offer help to him on an emotional level but couldn’t do more than that. That feeling of uselessness was something that really struck me. I knew I wanted to help this man and people facing similar situations. As I was researching the right path for me, the obvious choice came forward and that was to pursue a degree in law, to become a lawyer.

So you set out on a course for a pre-law certificate …

I was terrified because I switched my major second semester of my junior year. I had very little time to complete all the requirements to graduate in four years. I called Bridgit Martin from Multicultural Student Services (MSS) at 10 p.m., and she answered the phone. She was like, “All right, let’s talk this through.” Then I talked with Avery Garcia of MSS and Dr. Jacobs in the political science department. Those three people helped me figure out what this path would look like — and we were able to do it. Here we are a year and a half later and I’m starting law school.

And you were accepted to quite a few law schools …

Yes! I may have gotten a bit too excited during the application process. I was offered admittance to schools in Washington, D.C., California, Connecticut, and several other areas as well. I ultimately chose the University of Wisconsin because I really value the connections I have here in Wisconsin and was offered just under a full ride.

Dr. Jacobs was the biggest support system for me throughout the application process. He went beyond his office hours to talk, he took calls on the weekend. He was so thoughtful in reviewing my essays, giving me feedback and reassuring me in the way a father figure would. President Brian Bruess and his wife, Carol, were phenomenal as well. Brian wrote a letter of recommendation for me, and Carol has been connecting me with alumni.

What other impactful relationships did you have at SNC?

Avery Garcia is like my big sister. As the oldest of four children and a first-generation student, I didn’t know anything about grad school, loans and apartment hunting. Avery was with me every step of the way as I turned in applications and clicked submit buttons. This summer I had to stay in De Pere for an internship and was scrambling for a place to live. Avery almost immediately offered me the spare room in her home. In the middle of the coronavirus, she was willing to open her doors and invite me in. She helped me both on campus and beyond. She is truly one of my best friends.