To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling three dozen of Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 16th alumna in our series is Maraleen Shields ’00, who majored in philosophy and political science at Kenyon. She went on to earn a law degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and is now a shareholder at the law firm Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba P. C. in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Shields has served as a member of Alumni Council and the Kenyon Fund Executive Committee.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
As the demands of my life have increased over the years, I have become more committed, perhaps even dogmatic, about making space for myself. I make space for my physical, mental and emotional well-being. I make space for relationships that support my well-being. I make space to learn new things. After that, it is all about getting up early, making lists and executing. I also owe my ability to get things done to my spouse, who has never asked me to compromise my ambition and is equally responsible for our home and children.
Where did you first discover your power?
That is difficult because women in general, and black women in particular, are in a constant struggle for power. I certainly know my power to speak my mind and my power to walk away.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
Women like Melissa Kravetz [’99], Kamille Harless [’99], Vanessa Chan [’00], Krissy Maier [’00] and Kristin Meister [’00] were daily reminders about how women could and should be leaders. I admire each of them. Professor [of Sociology and Legal Studies] Ric Sheffield has an ability to see my potential in a way that I never have and probably never will.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Professor Sheffield told me to get through law school, if possible, without any loans. He warned me about golden handcuffs. Because of his advice, I accepted a full-ride scholarship from the University of Pittsburgh. That choice has allowed me a degree of freedom. I did not have to immediately worry about staying in a job because I needed a way to pay school loans. I could choose experience over money. I also met my husband, with whom I share two children, in law school.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
Before coming to Kenyon, I was focused on getting a degree and going to law school. Kenyon taught me that degrees are not the destination and the job is not the destination. Kenyon really fostered my love of learning. It’s a cradle-to-grave endeavor for me. The world is still open to me, and each day I hope to know more than the day before.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Jameyanne Fuller ’14
Read about the next woman in our series: Hillary Child ’13