Kathleen Poe Ross, 404-413-1374
Public Relations and Marketing Communications
ATLANTA -- Four Georgia State University College of Law students were elected this past November to public office in Georgia.
Motivated by a desire to bring about change, these students, some of whom have since graduated, balanced coursework with the campaign trail and are now serving their communities and state.
Because of its proximity to the Gold Dome, the College of Law offers exceptional learning opportunities for students interested in government and policy. Through the college’s part-time program, its students can do more than just study or be an intern with their local government. They can be leaders in it, as these students have demonstrated.
Second-year student Trey Kelley began as a full-time student in fall 2011 but has cut back to part time since he won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in November. Kelley represents District 16, which includes his hometown of Cedartown, Ga.
With a background in sales and marketing, Kelley came to law school because the current business environment requires a base of legal knowledge, he says. His interest in business also motivated him to run for legislative office.
“You get in this to make a difference, and there are some issues that I’m passionate about,” Kelley says. He wants to continue to improve Georgia’s business climate and help make the state more attractive for doing business.
Kelley says the analytical skills he honed during his first year have served him well in school and in his first few weeks as a legislator.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be involved with both Georgia State’s law school and our state government,” Kelley says. “I think there are great leaders at the top of both.”
Lisa Cupid also won office last fall and serves District 4 (Southwest) on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, based in Marietta. She campaigned through the final stretch of completing her dual law and master of public affairs degrees from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. She graduated in December.
Cupid, whose background is in mechanical engineering and policy, enrolled as a part-time dual-degree graduate student in 2007. She decided to run for office after not seeing improvements in her district despite getting involved with her homeowners’ association and various nonprofit organizations to work for change.
“I came to law school to learn how to better advocate for my community and other underserved communities,” Cupid says. “Running for office while in school helped me connect to the true reason why I entered the program, and I feel blessed, now that I am in office, to see the path taken was not in vain.”
For Brian Thomas, this wasn’t his first victory — he won re-election for the fourth time in 2012. Thomas has represented House District 100 in Gwinnett County since 2005.
An archaeologist by training, Thomas became interested in running for office because he didn’t like how things were going at the local and national levels and felt he could make a difference. In the General Assembly, Thomas serves on three committees that reflect his primary interests: Natural Resources and Environment, Education, and Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Law school entered the picture when Thomas decided he wanted to better understand environmental law as well as the larger policy concerns behind legislation. Thomas juggled a full-time job, his House seat and family life while attending Georgia State Law part time. After four and a half years, Thomas graduated in December and will take the bar exam later this month.
“It has certainly been interesting going through law school while serving in the General Assembly at the same time, and I am sure that each of these roles helped me understand the other better,” Thomas says. “I am happy to be a more informed legislator, now that I am finally through the program.”
Like Thomas, Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton has served in his role for many years. He was elected to his first six-year term in 2006. He won re-election last November, about a month before he graduated.
Eaton has been passionate about politics since college. Leaving behind his job as a manufacturing executive for elected office was a natural progression. As commissioner, his full-time job is to regulate the state’s public utilities: telecommunications, electricity and natural gas services.
Eaton began law school part time in 2009 with the goal of better understanding the legal processes he encountered daily at the Public Service Commission. He says law school has made him a stronger critical thinker and a better commissioner.
“When attorneys practice in front of me I have a much better understanding of what they’re trying to get at and what road they’re going down,” Eaton says. “Civil procedure, jurisdiction, all these issues now are so much more meaningful to me.”
To learn more about the part-time program at the Georgia State College of Law, visit law.gsu.edu.