My UA Journey: An Undergraduate Zip to the Elle Woods of Akron Law


Jaclyn Sims

Rachel Richards, ’23, and I in the Akron Law library attempting to look serious for graduation pictures and failing hilariously.

By Megan Parker, former Editor-in-Chief and 2023 Law Graduate

From High School to the University of Akron: Thank You Mom!

Megan Parker sitting next to her mother.
My mom and I at the University of Akron new student orientation in late June of 2020.

My journey as an Akron Zip started in 2017 only a few months before high school graduation. Having taken a journalism class on a whim through Ashland University’s College Credit Plus, I knew I wanted a degree in journalism or some related field. Only I didn’t know the most important detail: where to attend college.

I’d been accepted into Ashland University, but my deposit hadn’t been paid yet and there were tensions at home keeping me from making a final decision about the future. My mom, Jaclyn Sims, who moved to Akron a few years prior, encouraged me to apply to the University of Akron as a way to experience something new.

So I applied, not knowing whether the University of Akron even had a journalism degree, because my mom was right: I needed to get out of the small town where I grew up and experience something new. Fortunately, I got accepted almost immediately, took my first tour of the campus in May, graduated high school in early June, attended new student orientation in late June, and moved to Akron in August.

Early Life as an Undergraduate Zip: Doing Everything I Said I Wouldn’t

One of my favorite memories as an undergraduate student is telling my mom I never wanted to get involved with student organizations on campus because I wanted to solely focus on my classes. This idea lasted one single semester.

Once I entered the Communication program at the University of Akron, I learned the School of Communication included The Buchtelite, the student newspaper and exactly the kind of journalism I hoped to become involved in. For the longest time, I felt my voice was not a fit for radio and I did not look the part for broadcast journalism. Printed words were my strong point above all else.

I remember meeting with The Buchtelite’s advisor, Julie Cajigas, in her office to go over my writing portfolio and inquire about joining the student newspaper. Never once did I feel discouraged or like I wouldn’t belong due to my disability: something I feared going into the meeting. Instead, Cajigas made me feel beyond welcome and told me my unique perspective was just what the paper needed.

In January of 2018, only one semester after starting my undergraduate program, my first article as news contributor for The Buchtelite published online about former President Wilson speaking with the Graduate Student Government and other students to discuss different program changes. Little did I know, this would be the first of several articles I would write for the student newspaper.

Then in August of 2018, I became one of the Copy Editors for The Buchtelite. One of the first articles I wrote in my new position should have been seen as foreshadowing of my future since it involved an event at the University of Akron School of Law where a law professor discussed how humor can interact with the law in several ways.

During the last semester of my time as Copy Editor, I found myself beginning to build my advocacy skills after writing part of a two-part series on a campus incident involving a student with disabilities and the University of Akron’s response. Despite receiving necessary criticism on my article, writing the article helped me understand the importance of advocating for those who’s voice isn’t always heard.

My involvement on campus, which I originally never anticipated for my undergraduate career, went beyond The Buchtelite. I later performed in the Zips Programming Network Akron’s Got Talent. In 2018, I sang “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman and ended up getting second place in the competition. The following year, I played the ukulele and sang “Titanium” by David Guetta and was fortunate to earn first place in the competition.

Final Year as an Undergraduate Zip: Pandemic and Preparations for Law School

Megan Parker next to celebrity actress Yvette Nicole Brown.
Myself with Yvette Nicole Brown when she visited the School of Communication. (Kaitee Horstmann)

After spending a year-and-a-half as Copy Editor, I became Editor-in-Chief of The Buchtelite: something I dreamed of since speaking with Cajigas in my first semester of my undergraduate career. With the new position, however, came new experiences and responsibilities: interviewing fellow students for staff positions for the first time.

My very first interview with a student involved Kaitee Horstmann, who wished to become Copy Editor based on her previous experience with prior student newspapers. Little did either of us know that the two timid, nervous, and shy women talking in that interview would later on become best friends.

As Editor-in-Chief, I was fortunate enough to participate in and write about several campus events prior to the pandemic. One of my favorite experiences was meeting Yvette Nicole Brown, a School of Communication alumna who was involved with WZIP. I had the pleasure of co-writing a piece with Horstmann on Brown’s campus visit.

But then only a few months prior to achieving one of my life goals, graduating from college, the unthinkable happened: COVID-19 reached the United States and the University of Akron suspended all instruction until the end of March in response.

The final two months of my undergraduate career and eventually graduation, where I was supposed to serve as the Buchtel College of Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Student Commencement Speaker, became virtual experiences. Honestly, I was devastated. My whole life I dreamed of driving across the stage to accept my degree, and now I would be behind a screen. Regardless of my devastation, however, I knew there was still one more goal still within reach: law school.

The Road to Law School: Becoming the Elle Woods of Akron Law

For as long as I can remember, I’d always wanted to go to law school. When I was young, I watched the movie “Legally Blonde” and immediately told my mom I would attend Harvard Law School one day because “if Elle Woods could do it, so could I.”

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to spark change through physical act, I knew I could initiate change through my intellect. And after more paperwork than I’d ever expected to receive accommodations and schedule the exam, I took the Law School Admission Test virtually from my home in May of 2020 to get step closer to this goal.

As I grew older, however, the specific details of my goal changed. My mom asked me if I still intended on applying to Harvard Law because she fully supported me and would move to Boston if I got accepted. When I told her no, she looked at me with a concerned expression and asked why. My response: I didn’t want to go to Harvard because that is where the New England Patriots were. 

Eventually, based on wanting to stay in Akron and their great intellectual property program, I applied to the University of Akron School of Law. And I specifically remember the feeling of anxiety turning into pure excitement when I woke up to a missed call from Akron Law and a voice mail stating I’d been accepted into the full-time juris doctorate program.

Starting in law school in the midst of the pandemic, I once again told myself I would not join any student organization nor apply for a summer associate position so my focus could stay solely on my studies. Since my time at Akron Law, I’ve continued my tradition of doing everything I stated I’d never do. 

Megan Parker with Kristo Pantelides, giving a peace sign.
Kristo Pantelides, ’22, and myself celebrating after competing together in the American Bar Association National Appellate Advocacy Competition. (Jaclyn Sims)

I became President of the Akron Law Moot Court Honor Society; competed in the American Bar Association National Appellate Advocacy Competition, where my team went undefeated in regionals, reached semi-finals in nationals, and earned fourth best brief in the nation; and later coached subsequent teams for competition.

Further, I joined the Akron Law Review and wrote my note titled “Outdated, Archaic, and Stereotypical: Current Medicaid Income and Asset Limits Discriminate Against Working Individuals with Disabilities”. The DePaul Journal for Social Justice later published my note in February 2023.

I became a student fellow for one of the first-year Legal Analysis, Research and Writing courses after receiving the top grade in the course my first year of law school. Through this role, I’ve been able to mentor first-year students and help craft their legal writing skills, as well as improve my own communication skills.

Lastly, during the past two summers, I was a summer associate at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff in Cleveland. There are not enough words to describe my experience with the firm, how accommodating they were, and the feeling that I found where I belong in the legal profession. After graduation in May and the Uniform Bar Exam in July, I will be joining Benesch as a first-year associate in their 3iP practice group.

Final Thoughts on My Journey at the University of Akron

As the days start to count down to graduation in May, I’ve been reflecting on my journey at the University of Akron. Although I could write dozens of pages on my experience, everything can be boiled down to a few simple thoughts: none of this would have been possible without support from my family, the faculty, and my friends.

To all my professors: Thank you for always believing in my capabilities as a student instead of focusing on my limited abilities as an individual with disabilities. You never ceased to challenge me to do better, both in my assignments and drive for the future.

To the friends I’ve made along the way: You reminded me there is more to college than coursework, which is something I needed constantly. Without you keeping me on my toes and active socially, I would not be where I am today and would not have been able to recognize when it is time to take a break.

To my family, specifically, my mom and sister: You’ve been by my side every step of the way to both undergraduate and now law school graduation. From sitting in classes with me on subjects you are not interested in to attending student organization events because I needed to be present, you both have made sure no obstacle grew to big or insurmountable. I’ll forever be grateful for your love and support.

Finally, to the University of Akron: Thank you for spending six years of my life providing me with the tools I need to succeed in the future. Go Zips!