Focusing on What You Care About: Whitney Wakefield

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Whitney Wakefield (’23 J.D.)

October 18, 2023
Gonzaga Law

Whitney Wakefield (’23 J.D.) took a nontraditional path to law school. She studied in her home state of Utah and developed an interest in helping children. After graduating from college in 2018, she moved to Houston and became a foster parent for toddlers and infants. That work opened her eyes to the systemic issues facing parents and children, and sparked a new career goal: law.

“I had not yet chosen my career path until I became a foster parent,” she said in an email interview. “While seeing how the system often operated contrary to its intent and wondering what career may allow for the most beneficial and impactful changes, I decided to pursue a law degree.”

Gonzaga Law’s commitment to social justice and its partnership with Eastern Washington University in a dual J.D./M.S.W. degree initially drew her attention to the region. Although Wakefield ultimately decided not to pursue the master’s in social work to focus on law, she said “it was very important to me that I attend a school that prioritized the work being done rather than the personal benefits we could obtain.”

During her time at Gonzaga, she kept doing the work, taking leadership roles in organizations such as the Washington Supreme Court’s Minority and Justice as Commission and the Moderate Means Program. She also was active in several student groups, including the Black Law Students Association, PrideLaw and the Women’s Law Caucus. In 2022, she received Gonzaga Law’s Justice CZ Smith Award, named in honor of Washington’s first Supreme Court justice of color.

As she has followed her passions, she has continued to learn from those varied experiences and seen the impact.

“My biggest takeaway has likely been that focusing on your passions can make the biggest impact,” she said. “Although sometimes it seems as though focusing on what you care about might not make that much of a difference, I have seen the great impact that we can have on an individual’s life by taking one small step on our end.”

Wakefield intends to continue following her passion as she works as a patent attorney for the Seattle firm Lee & Hayes.

“I hope to continue finding ways to uplift my community, especially families and young children, through similar organizations and projects,” she said. “Each experience I have had has taught me so much, and hopefully made me a better person and professional. I truly hope that I will continue to engage with people, organizations and experiences that will show me more about myself and the people that surround me, and encourage me to continue growing.”

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