Affordable tuition gives grads freedom to choose public service
In his first semester at BYU, Matt Fife tagged along with his sister when she asked for moral support at an audition for a play.
Then the stage manager asked Matt to do a cold read, and he joined her on the cast of BYU's production of Stage Door — Sam Hastings, Dr. Randall, and Larry Westcott — and changed his undergraduate major to theatre arts.
Unlike that spontaneous decision, it is no accident that Matt Fife is now graduating from BYU Law and beginning a career of public service in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.
“Luckily, at BYU they bring in people from many different areas of the law and there are lots of opportunities to network,” said Fife. “We had an Air Force JAG come down and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Fife started college in Virginia, but after looking for a less expensive option and opportunities to work with individuals who shared similar standards and beliefs, he transferred to BYU.
His acting days taught him many skills in communication, creative problem solving and creative thinking. Although he didn’t plan on doing theater professionally, he looked for opportunities to use those same skills in other areas.
At the same time he noticed family and friends struggling with legal issues and wanted to help. His wife mentioned that he would make a great lawyer. That comment that set the course of Fife's career.
“BYU Law really emphasizes using your degree to help others. We focus on developing compassion and getting proximate to those people that we are serving because this is a service profession,” said Fife. “Having that instilled in me, and really focusing on it for three years, I think is going to have the biggest impact moving forward in life.”
Fife worked hard through law school, balancing classes with participation in the Air Force ROTC and his job as a teaching assistant for the legal writing and research course.
Fife committed early in the process to join the Air Force, and if recent history holds true, other classmates may follow after graduating. Last year 10 BYU Law graduates entered the JAG Corps, which is nearly 10% of the Class of 2019.
"Most BYU Law graduates don't have to make salary the sole consideration in a career," said BYU President Kevin J Worthen, a former dean of BYU Law. "Thanks to generous support from the Church and its members, our tuition remains relatively low. That gives our law school graduates the agency to choose careers in the military, as public defenders and other positions that serve their communities."
BYU Law offers specific courses that directly prepare students for government and military service, such as law of armed conflict, criminal trial practice and national security law. The school's Military and National Security Law Club also connects current students with alumni who work in those fields.
Fife will receive his commission on May 15 and will begin a four-year active duty commitment after passing the bar exam. Take a look at the slideshow below for photos and quotes from recent BYU Law grads who entered the JAG Corps.