Westmont Magazine Accepted by the Best
This spring, senior Melissa Durkee spent two weeks visiting the five prestigious law schools that offered her admission. She prioritized them as follows: Yale, University of Chicago, Harvard, New York University, and Stanford. After long and careful consideration, she chose Yale because it featured small-school interaction and the widest range of career possibilities after graduation.
Melissa is surprised at her options. “I didn’t have a clue I’d get into all of them,” she admits. “I think my professors had more confidence in me than I did.”
The support of professors helped inspire Melissa to pursue graduate education at a quality institution. “They really encouraged me to shoot high,” she said. “They were with me through the whole application process, helping me to produce the best application I could.”
She credits her professors with playing a large role in her academic achievement. “Dr. Shirley Mullen has been my mentor since I walked on campus. We’ve been very close all four years, and she’s been extremely influential,” Melissa said. So has Dr. Jim Taylor, her adviser and chair of her major honors project.
The 21-year-old English and philosophy double major has an accumulated GPA of 3.99 and graduated as a member of four national honor societies: Omicron Delta Kappa (leadership), Phi Kappa Phi (scholarship), Phi Sigma Tau (philosophy), and Sigma Tau Delta (English). She also received the departmental awards for English and philosophy and graduated summa cum laude with major honors in philosophy.
She participated in two off-campus programs her junior year, studying on England Semester with Westmont professors in the fall and at Oxford University in the spring. She says her distinctive experiences greatly enhanced her law school applications. “Schools are looking for people with unique backgrounds.”
Melissa believes the critical thinking skills she learned in her English and philosophy classes helped her score in the top 99th percentile on the law school entrance exam (LSAT). She credits her English major with improving her writing skills and her classes in philosophy with teaching her critical thinking. She believes these skills will be extremely beneficial in law school.
Melissa has participated in a varied list of campus activities. One of the founders of the Westmont Student Union, which promotes discussion of serious issues, she has been extensively involved in leadership development. She has worked as a tutor, teacher’s assistant, and on the staff of the student newspaper. Her other involvements include Christian Concerns, Potter’s Clay, and leadership of several student ministries.
Melissa is very happy with her Westmont experience and says it was well-suited to the different stages of her life journey. “My faith has changed a lot — it has been expanded,” she notes. “I’ve been encouraged to take questions of faith very seriously and inspired to think deeply about faith.”
She grew up in the Sacramento area and was taught at home through high school. When she began researching colleges, she looked for an academically challenging and rigorous school. She narrowed her choices down to Westmont and Covenant College, but became particularly interested in Westmont when Dr. Winter spoke in her area. She was impressed with the crisp, professional people and literature. “I really felt a sense of difference,” she said.
When she entered Westmont as a first-year student, she was prepared to work hard. This attitude has facilitated her success. She has taken advantage of the many opportunities offered at the college and is well-prepared for life after graduation. Although she has no definite career plans, she is drawn to many things and plans to fully explore those interests.
Although she graduated in May, Melissa will stay in Santa Barbara for a year before leaving for Yale in the fall of 2001.
— Dawn Schmidt ’02