Photo: Lee Pellegrini

Riley Odams | Woods College of Advancing Studies

Hometown: Wrentham, Mass.
Majors: Criminal and social justice

Notable Activities/Achievements: Graduated with a 4.0 GPA; received a Mission Excellence Award from Mission Essential, LLC and a Certificate of Appreciation from the Department of Defense for working to prevent high-casualty attacks while deployed in Afghanistan.

Post-Graduation Plans:   Will attend law school.

More: Odams took a non-traditional path to college, joining the Army National Guard out of high school and working as an intelligence analyst for the government before enrolling at the Woods College in 2018, where he discovered a passion for the law.

What was your path to Woods College like?

After the military, it was difficult to make the transition to college. I ended up having a bunch of jobs: working as a line cook, delivering linens to restaurants. I went to community college and was planning on going down the law enforcement road, but then I got hired at a counterintelligence agency and ended up going to Afghanistan twice. When I got back, I really wanted to keep going to school, so I applied to Woods on a whim and it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.

How has BC made a difference in your life?

My classes at BC taught me to think, not just about the subject matter, but how to tackle problems and ultimately look inside myself to find answers on my own. As a non-traditional student, a lot of times you don't feel like you have the same type of potential as other students. Woods helped me shrug that off and say, "No, I can do anything I want to do as long as I work hard enough."

Who have been the most influential people you’ve known here?

The person who comes to mind first and foremost is Judge James Menno. He's the one who showed me the beauty of the law and said, "If you want to go to law school, do it. There's nothing standing in your way." I also took two classes with [Assistant Professor of the Practice] Joshua Snyder in the Theology Department and I had no idea what to expect, but not only were both of them really interesting, he ended up becoming one of the best mentors I ever had.

What’s been your most formative experience at Boston College?

I had to go to an undergraduate research fair for one of my classes and it was on a Saturday. I didn't really want to be there, but when I showed up, Judge Menno gave a presentation about the beauty of the law and the importance of belonging, and it was the moment for me that I knew I was going to try to go to law school. I also saw how it enraptured everybody—people who had no background in anything legal—and it was wonderful to see that I was part of a community where people really cared about learning, not because it was required for their major, but because it was interesting. That meant a lot to me.

What will you miss most about your time here?

I will miss the intellectual diversity of the coursework. Going from learning about films with [Professor of Film Studies] John Michalczyk to learning about terrorism with [Associate Professor of Political Science] Peter Krause to learning about exploring your faith with Dr. Snyder—it takes your mind in so many different directions and I will miss that tremendously.

As a veteran, how do you think your experience differed from that of a traditional student?

Sometimes the path's a little uncertain when you leave the military. A lot of veterans get out and want to immediately jump into the workforce, and that can be limiting because you start thinking you don’t have time, or don’t need, a degree. In my opinion, the liberal arts is a really valuable thing to have for your own enrichment. The military sets you up for success, but then you need to make that jump and get into education. The hardest part is starting.

How do you plan to use your law degree in the future?

I'm going in with an open mind and keeping my options open but I’m really interested in things like rule of law. Having seen Afghanistan, and what it's like when rule of law doesn't exist, it's something pretty close to my heart. I would like to be part of the criminal justice process, but I'm not sure exactly in what capacity. Time will tell.

Alix Hackett | University Communications | May 2021

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