Be Open to Different Possibilities
Jenelle Beavers has served as counsel in the University of Missouri’s Office of General Counsel for about a year, after serving as associate director of Mizzou’s Honors College. Prior to returning to campus, Beavers, BA ’01 English, served eight years as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, leading False Claims Act investigations and civil prosecutions in the health, technology, and defense industries. Even though she loves being an attorney, Beavers originally planned to be a doctor.
“When I came to Mizzou, I thought I was going to be a doctor,” she says. “I was a biology major, but I loved my English classes much more, so I changed my major but still thought I might go to med school. Later, I decided I did not want to be a doctor, so I got a master’s in public health since it was medicine but it has a public service component.” She earned her MPH at the University of Michigan.
A Helpful Suggestion
Beavers says a conversation with Associate Dean Ted Tarkow, whom she had known since participating in the Missouri Scholars Academy at the age of 15, changed her career path. Tarkow recommended she get a terminal degree, so she says she went to law school at the University of Michigan, which had never been in her plans, earning her JD in 2005.
“It turns out I loved law school, but my English degree prepared me for it—reading, writing, critical thinking,” she says. “I think a lot of lawyering when you are a litigator is storytelling, so you take different facts and pieces of paper and witness interviews and come up with your story, which is kind of what writers do, so it translated well.”
Beavers says she ultimately found a fulfilling career because she was open to other ideas and willing to take risks, which she hopes to convey to the graduating seniors during the College of Arts and Science Commencement ceremony at the Hearnes Center, Dec. 15.
“Be flexible and open to taking risks, and think of your career and your life as being a journey and not obsessing over each little decision you make along the way,” she says. “If you would have told me when I graduated from MU that I would be back living in Columbia working in the general counsel’s office, I would have laughed at you.”
Comfortable in COMO
Beavers says it’s a good idea to have a plan after graduation, but she says it should not be a finite plan, because life changes.
“When you’re about to graduate, people always ask, ‘What are you going to do? What’s your plan? Where are you going to work?’ I think you should have some sort of plan—that’s a good thing—but I think the focus should be more on ‘Who do you want to be?”
Beavers says she enjoyed serving as associate director of the Honors College because she got to know the people on campus and made a lot of relationships. But she discovered she missed being a lawyer more than she thought she would, so she was grateful for the opportunity to join the Office of General Counsel. Still, the Kansas City native and mother of two credits the College of Arts and Science for providing her with the tools to be successful.
“I’m going to talk about how great Arts and Science is and the value of a liberal arts education and the value of giving back,” she says. “Everybody at commencement has had someone help them, or this institution helped them, and since you are a part of the small population of people who have college degrees, you need to go do something with it, and you need to give back to your community and to your college.”
Beavers says she and her husband, Associate Professor of Law Sam Halabi, love raising their two young children in a college town, taking them to the Homecoming parade and to football games.