Mary Allie Clayton

What are you doing now?

I am a law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. Hopefully, I will graduate with a J.D. in three years (2018). I plan to pass the bar after I graduate and become a practicing attorney, probably in the field of criminal prosecution.

How did UTM Psychology Program help you achieve what you have become?

The UTM Psychology Program and UTM contributed to my success in many ways. I was a University Scholar, and my mentor for my research project and for life in general was Dr. Angie MacKewn. Dr. MacKewn made sure I worked hard, and the extra requirements of that program helped me develop time management skills and prioritizing. I was actually working to obtain double degrees, one in psychology and one in criminal justice. Having the second degree kept the pressure level high, which is helpful in law school where pressure is high and hard work is king.


When I entered the University of Tennessee at Martin, I was planning to open a private practice counseling office. I started to doubt this future when I took Professor Johnson’s Careers in Psychology class. I later took a business law class, and that is what changed my career path. I switched my plan from counseling to law because I now knew this was a possibility, and a possibility I relished. Throughout my time at UTM, I served as an officer in many clubs on campus. In my final year, I was president of Psi Chi (the honor society in psychology), Psychology Club, Relay for Life, and Alpha Phi Sigma (the honor society in criminal justice). I was also an officer for College Republicans, the University Scholars Organization and Student Government Association, among others. I also served as a tutor for the athletic department. I kept myself busy and I learned how to work well with those that offer different perspectives.


There were three major classes that offered distinct skills which I believe are essential to thriving in real life, especially law school. Senior seminar with Dr. Buckelew gave me the opportunity to practice interviewing others and being interviewed myself. In the field of law, networking is key. Being able to reach out to people you don’t know and ask real questions are necessary skills to obtain work in the future.


Myth and Hero’s Journey with Dr. Merwin allowed me to see different perspectives. It also put me in a position to be able to assert ideas and defend my perspectives. The most valuable component, however, was the way the course was designed to make students hold two contrasting opinions in their minds and evaluate them both without passing judgment. That is a crucial idea in the field of law. Lawyers have to have their minds open to differing ideas and be able to construct both sides of an argument.


The last class is Dr. MacKewn’s Advanced Research Class. Unsurprisingly, I gained research skills from this class that are completely crucial to success in law school. But there was another skill I gained from advanced research that has helped me thus far and will help me in the future. For the class, we had to do two projects simultaneously. It was essentially like doing research for two cases or two clients or partners. It makes documentation of the research and creation of a solid research plan a necessity. It also makes balance and planning crucial. You cannot write two full research papers and run the statistics for them both in one night. There must be a balance of knowing deadlines and keeping yourself on track for both projects without falling behind and disappointing either of the project supervisors or clients.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about becoming UTM psychology majors?

The advice I would give is to keep your mind open to possibilities and know that the work is hard, but is something you must do. Also, don’t rule psychology out as a precursor to law. Most law schools only require a bachelor’s degree in something, without anything specific as to the subject matter. Psychology has taught me to think linearly, but also to be aware of out-of-the-box possibilities. It has helped me develop critical thinking skills and the ability to look at an argument and counterargument in the same thought process without ruling anything out.


Psychology does not have to be anatomically heavy, and it does not have to be theoretically heavy. A major positive attribute of the psychology program is that it allows students to pick and choose what courses they want and decide what they want to take each semester. Planning each year was embarking on a new adventure. While each semester built on the previous semesters to create a comprehensive picture of psychology, it was still a new subject matter and new and exciting to learn. Also being able to assess burden on others is crucial in the law field and with that comes knowing other people’s perspective.

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