Madeline Morcelle '15L

Madeline Morcelle '15L received her undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo. At W&L, she was co-president of the Women Law Students Association and received the National Association of Women Lawyers award given to an oustanding woman law student.

When I first came to Lexington, I knew almost at once that this was it. This is where I would complete the three most rigorous years of my education yet.

I knew because the students did not seem to regard one another as competition. They seemed to genuinely like each other. I was also drawn to the school's age-old Honor System, one of the university's most important traditions dating back to the mid-1840s. Students explained that the Honor System fostered a community of trust and respect. I wanted to be a member of that community. Lexington was sleepy, but vibrant, and I felt that if I ever escaped the law library, there would be plenty of artsy boutiques, galleries, and restaurants to keep me occupied. The small student-to-faculty ratio and the faculty's open door policy were additional draws. After being incredibly spoiled by the English Department at the University at Buffalo, I hoped for the opportunity to get to know my law professors outside the classroom.   

Three years later, I can say that the law faculty surpassed my highest hopes. Despite the fact that so many of them are leaders in their fields, the faculty at W&L Law are accessible, affable, and care deeply about their students. This approach--their warmth and commitment to teaching--makes studying law at W&L all the more gratifying.   

My involvement in various student organizations has also been central to my experience. I got involved as an Honor Advocate during my first semester of law school, and have been grateful for the opportunity to help keep the Honor System alive. I have also treasured my time with the Women Law Students Organization (WLSO). This year alone, WLSO has hosted a symposium on the advancement of women in the law; raised money for our scholarship and for a local organization that serves survivors of domestic violence; lobbied in Richmond for legislation beneficial to survivors of sexual assault; and organized a production of the Vagina Monologues. WLSO accomplished this through teamwork, sisterhood, and a shared passion for gender equality. It has been a privilege to work with such an extraordinary group of women.  

You will notice that there is a theme here. Studying at Washington and Lee means that you are a part of a community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni that care deeply for each other. It's true that the community is small--you surrender any hope of anonymity when you move to Lexington--but that is exactly what makes it so great. We know each other. We would go to bat for each other. I realize that this is rare. I realize how lucky we are. I know from conversations with alumni that these are relationships that will last for the rest of our lives. When we leave the Lexington bubble, I will be proud to call my classmates my colleagues and become a part of the school's dedicated alumni network.  

I know that when I drive out of Lexington this summer, I will not be leaving for the last time. In many ways, Lexington will always be home, and I already can't wait to visit.