Daniel Harawa, '09, entered college with a plan: to maintain his focus on attending law school while finding a major that would incorporate his interests in American culture, history and literature. During his first year at Richmond, he considered developing his own interdisciplinary major in African American studies until his academic advisor suggested he register for an introductory American studies course.

"I realized that a major in American studies would pull together my interdisciplinary interests and be flexible enough that I could pick and choose what I wanted to focus on," Harawa said.

Harawa became particularly interested in the ways history and society intersect and how this intersection creates culture. He took sociology classes on immigration in America, history classes on black women in America, and English classes on film studies and the black vernacular in literature. Ultimately he declared majors in both sociology and American studies.

Though Harawa gained valuable experience interning at both corporate and general practice law firms in the summer following his sophomore year, it was during the summer after his junior year that he found a field of law about which he was passionate.

All the while, Harawa was assisting University of Richmond criminal justice professor Joan Neff with her research and work. Thanks to a Burhans Fellowship from the University's Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) and Neff's support, Harawa secured a summer internship with the Commonwealth's Department of Criminal Justice. There, he worked alongside Neff and a number of DCJ employees as they planned the Commonwealth's first Victim Assistance Academy, which was held at the University of Richmond campus in July 2008. The program provided 30 victim assistance providers from across Virginia with the tools to help crime victims gain control of their lives.

Harawa spent the summer designing handouts for the courses, working with the planning committee, and corresponding with the academy's participants. When the academy launched, he became a participant himself.

"It was really fulfilling," he said of the experience. "It affirmed my desire to go into public service law—this is a field about passion, not money."

In the fall of his senior year, Harawa took an urban studies course with CCE director Amy Howard; the course material focused on the city of Richmond and affected him significantly.

"A class like that allows you the opportunity to think in ways most people never will," he said. "It causes you to really look at why we are the way we are in America."

While finishing his senior theses—both of which looked at archetypes of African-American female characters in film—Harawa also managed to take the LSATs and apply to a number of law schools. After receiving acceptance letters from Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and Cornell University, among others, he made the decision to attend Georgetown Law starting in the fall of 2009.

At Georgetown, in addition to concentrating on public interest law, Harawa plans to explore public defense law, civil rights law, national security law, counterterrorism law, and intellectual properties law. He credits his time at Richmond with preparing him for studying the law.

"My American studies classes were always small, which made for a great environment where everyone felt comfortable sharing their opinion," said Harawa. "Many times my experiences outside and inside the classroom merged together, and I've come away with marketable leadership skills that I know will benefit me in law school."