UVU Constitutional Studies minor equips students for post-graduate success

Graphic courtesy of Kristen Whitney

At Utah Valley University, the Constitutional Studies minor is a growing program that alumni have said aided in their success, the likes of which have moved on to prestigious universities and prominent careers after moving on from UVU.

Jordan Peck

Jordan Peck graduated from UVU in 2019 with a bachelor’s in personal financial planning and a minor in constitutional studies. After finishing #1 in his freshman class at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, he was accepted as a transfer student at Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 2022. From there, Peck secured a very competitive federal clerkship for a district court judge in the US District of Utah. Peck says that taking the constitutional studies minor was helpful during his time in law school.

“Getting exposed to…cases out of law school case study books, a lot of people don’t have that sort of exposure going into law school,” Peck said. “Another thing we were exposed to early was how to brief a case…being able to break down the case into the facts, issues and holdings.”

Outside of the skills that he obtained in the minor, Peck says that it was helpful in providing a foundation for understanding the courts and the American legal system.

“[The minor] helps you understand why our constitution and the structure of our government is so important and why it has endured this long,” Peck stated. “The framers of our constitution learned from the ancient Greeks and Romans all the way up through the English…The minor provides students with this same background knowledge, which is helpful in law school. For example, because the Supreme Court justices often try to determine the framers’ intended meaning of constitutional provisions, they occasionally look to the historical sources that influenced the framers.”

Jakell Larson

Jakell Larson graduated from UVU in 2017 majoring in political science and minoring in constitutional studies. While at UVU, she was a Presidential intern serving under Linda Makin, served as student body vice president, and interned at US Senator Orrin Hatch’s office in Washington D.C. Post-graduation, Larson became an adjunct professor at UVU teaching American National Government in the political science program. She obtained a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Utah in 2020. As of Fall of 2022, Larson is a J.D. candidate at William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada Las Vegas

Larson expressed that she gained many literary skills from the minor. “I wrote quite a few different papers that I was able to use as writing samples to my masters program. I didn’t recognize the skill sets it would give me specifically for law school until I entered law school,” Larson stated. “But it did give me quite a bit of a leg up understanding how to read court opinions, understanding a lot of terminology that I realized once I got in [to law school] that I have kind of an upper hand [over] some of my classmates who had not taken courses designed around the judicial system as well as our constitutional history.”

Larson emphasized the value of the program, especially for those wanting to go on to practice law.

“The minor is fantastic for students that know what they are doing…especially [for] law school the constitutional studies minor is great…It was really fun I learned a lot. If you are interested in any of the subjects it covers it was great. I had some incredible professors.”

Jordan Ramos

After graduating from UVU with a minor in constitutional studies in 2020, Jordan Ramos was accepted into the University of Chicago’s political science program. The University of Chicago is currently tied with Duke, ranked tenth in the nation for political science as ranked by U.S. News. After recently graduating with his masters in political science, Ramos is currently attending law school at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. 

“I think that an understanding of what created The Constitution both the history and the philosophy behind it, is one of the most sorely lacking areas in American education today,” Ramos asserted. “I was at the University of Chicago and I would argue what we learned in the Constitutional Studies minor is as good if not better in some regards than what is being taught in some of those top universities.”

Ramos says that everyone could benefit from taking Constitutional Studies classes.

“Whether you are going to be an engineer or whether you are going into law school, if you are going to be an effective citizen, you have to at least have a baseline understanding of the knowledge that the minor absolutely gives you”

Kyle Warren

One of UVU’s most notable alumni to come out of the constitutional studies minor at UVU is Kyle Warren. Warren succeeded in establishing himself in international higher education after he graduated from UVU with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in constitutional studies in 2020. During his time at UVU, Warren held the position of UVU Rotaract President and served as a legislative intern, directly assisting Senator Kirk Cullimore from Utah’s ninth district. After graduation, Warren traveled to London, England to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science, a world-renowned university currently ranked #27 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Warren obtained a Masters of Science in Human Rights, contained within the sociology department of the university.

“When most people think about UVU they think ‘Oh it’s a state school, it’s in Utah County, it’s not Utah State it’s not the U of U’. They start putting it into different tiers. The London School of Economics and Political Science is a world-renowned institution often rated number one in the world for social sciences. I was in class with students from across the globe. We had leading students from India, from China, from Brazil, from the UK, from France, from all of these different places. I didn’t feel a jot behind any one of them in my studies and I feel that I owe a lot of that to the Constitutional Studies minor degree program, how I was able to compete at that same level as these world-renowned university graduates,” said Warren.

Dr. Rick Griffin – Director

Dr. Rick Griffin has been the director of the Constitutional Studies minor (CNST) since it was established during the 2012-2013 academic year. Griffin has spent much of his career teaching and researching constitutional issues and has completed five academic degrees and three doctorates in constitutional-related areas of study. Most recently, Griffin completed a Master of Laws and a Doctor of the Science of Law at the prestigious University of California Berkeley. Griffin says that “all citizens can benefit from attaining a better understanding of the Constitution, which remains the political blueprint and fundamental law of the nation.”

The minor covers a wide range of constitutional concepts and principles. “From the foundations of American constitutionalism to the structure and power of the US Constitution to cutting edge issues regarding civil rights and civil liberties, the minor has it all for students hoping to pursue graduate studies and careers in law and government,” said Griffin.

Consistent with the comments of Peck, Larson and Ramos, Griffin emphasized the valuable skill sets that the minor helps to develop in its students. Since the program is a minor, it draws a diverse group of students from all different majors across campus.

Graduates of the Constitutional Studies program have gone on to work at the Center for Constitutional Studies, attend some of the top-ranked graduate programs in the U.S and abroad, and achieve meaningful careers in law and politics.

Students interested in the Constitutional Studies minor can click here to learn more information.

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