Top Prospect Emerges from CSU Pre-Law Program

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A major turning point in Rudy Harris’ life occurred on a summer day in 2004 when he was just 20 years old.

It was his first day as a prison guard and an inmate cut himself severely. Harris, who at the time was planning to pursue a sports medicine degree in college, was surprised to discover how much the injury unnerved him.

Rudy“The room started to feel real hot … I wanted to exit,” he said. “It was the first time I’d seen that much bleeding up close, and when they drew the large needle to his arm … That was enough ... It was in that moment I realized that a career in medicine wasn’t for me.”

The incident steered Harris away from pursuing a sports medicine degree from another college and toward pre-law study at Columbus State University. This Saturday, he will become the first in his family to graduate from college and is set to reap the rewards from his major-change decision. With a stellar GPA and a spectacular score on his law school entrance exam, he will take his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from CSU to the University of Alabama School of Law on a full scholarship.

In doing so he, has turned down nine other scholarship offers from major schools nationwide, including the University of Miami (Florida),the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Marquette University and Roger Williams University (Rhode Island). The total offers are the most law school scholarship offers ever to a CSU graduate, said political science professor Arlene Johnson, CSU’s pre-law adviser. “He received an offer from every school he visited, and there would have been more, as he received inquiries from several more schools that he didn’t consider.”

Just two years earlier, the 2002 Spencer High School graduate and oldest of Vince (retired Army) and Lovie Harris’ four sons probably could not have imagined having to turn away such opportunities.

Uncertainty had marked his college career. He started as a computer science major at CSU prior to his near-transfer to another school. But in staying with CSU, he remained unsure of the career path to pursue with his political science major. Then, drawing partly on concurrent experience as a corrections officer at Rutledge State Prison in Columbus, where he continued to work despite that rough first day, he decided to aim for a law career.

He switched majors to criminal justice. But his most pressing task was to raise his 2.6 GPA to the minimum 3.3 needed for law school admission. “I buckled down and made straight A’s over the last four semesters to get it to 3.4,” he said.

Like the GPA, he demolished the other primary hurdle, the Law School Placement Test (LSAT), by scoring in the top 15 percentile among his peers nationally.

“I have to credit professor Johnson. She pushed me hard to stay focused on my studies and in preparing for the LSAT,” Harris said. “The pre-law program she established here at CSU gave me a foundation for succeeding.”

Johnson, a finalist for CSU Educator of the Year this year, was praised by a nominator for incorporating a legal-reference room and LSAT preparation classes in CSU’s pre-law program — at the same time Harris joined. She described Harris as an excellent and willing student. “I admit I harassed him and talked to him about law school,” she said. “I encouraged him to take the LSAT, suggested books for him to read and generally stayed on his case.”

Harris, one of 20 CSU pre-law students this spring, now looks forward to pursuing both a juris doctorate and a master’s in business administration from Alabama, as he plans to practice corporate and business law.

 

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CSU spring graduation ceremonies are 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12 in the Lumpkin Center