Joseph Jasper L’24 joined the U.S. Army in 2008, right after graduating from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He later earned a master’s degree in technology management. But the dream he held closest always seemed to be just out of reach: he wanted to become a lawyer. “My aunt was a very successful attorney, and I always looked up to her,” he says. “I think that an understanding of our nation’s laws provides a way to empower oneself and protect others who are not aware of the basic privileges the law provides.”
Jasper, a chief warrant officer, was assigned to a new position as a supply officer at Fort Drum last February. Because of the army base’s location in a remote area of Upstate New York, the dream of attending law school seemed even more elusive. “Then the stars aligned,” he explains. “I was scrolling through my news feed just a week after receiving my new assignment, and I learned about Syracuse University College of Law ’s online J.D. program called JDinteractive. I was enticed by the hybrid format and the fact that it was accredited by the American Bar Association.” He quickly researched the entry requirements, registered for the Law School Admissions Test and applied—just meeting the deadline for fall 2020 admission.
A Surreal Moment
“A dream come true” is how Jasper describes the experience of receiving his acceptance. “It was a surreal moment,” he says. “I have not stopped being excited about the opportunity to attend such a reputable university in pursuit of my legal education. I’m still not sure I fully believe it!”
JDinteractive, the country’s first fully interactive online law degree program, combines live and self-paced online classes with short on-campus residencies and experiential learning opportunities. Classes are taught by distinguished faculty, and the degree earned is identical for both residential and online students. The program offers a full slate of student support services, including academic counseling, tutors, study groups and bar exam preparation, as well as opportunities to join the student-run Syracuse Law Review and other organizations.
For Jasper, JDinteractive’s benefits go far beyond those of typical law programs. “As an active-duty member of the military, the flexibility and after-hours availability are what I value most,” he says. “There is also a personal touch on the part of the University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs , which I appreciate. Before I enrolled, they answered all my questions and discussed future congressional initiatives.” The Post-9/11 GI Bill and a scholarship cover more than half of Jasper’s tuition, and Syracuse University’s military-friendly reputation has earned it a designation as the country’s number one private school for veterans by Military Times . “People across campus show interest and support,” Jasper says.
Drawing Motivation From Family
The father of six (ages 1-16) knew he was taking on a tremendous responsibility when he added law school to his list of commitments, but it was his family that motivated him. “I have the most amazing and supportive wife and children,” he says. “My wife Katie and I believe we have an opportunity to change our future generation’s trajectory. Because we have such a large family, we would love to start business ventures that include every one of us. More than accumulating monetary wealth, we want to be rich in memories.” Jasper says that he and his wife often drive several hours just to give their children the opportunity to see new things. “We truly want them to be able to see life through many different lenses and find happiness in whatever that may mean for them. It’s a wild but fun life!”
With his first semester behind him, Jasper recognizes the power of the example he is setting for his children. “They definitely witness the sacrifice and appreciate my efforts,” he says. “The challenges all revolve around time. There is never enough of it! I wake up at 3 a.m. to study, and the subject matter can be very challenging. I take classes during breakfast and lunch, and on weekends I take part in a study group. My weekends used to be dedicated to my children, but now I must dedicate that time to coursework. But I count my blessings every day and do my best to earn my place in the Syracuse College of Law.”
A Culture of Engagement
The rewards have made the sacrifices worthwhile. “I absolutely love the culture at Syracuse,” he says. “Emails and invitations to law-related events are nonstop. The professors always manage to engage their students on a weekly basis. When they sense that you’re uncertain about something, they key in on it, and it forces you to be precise and confident. There’s something really comforting about all the people here who want to see you succeed.”
Six on-campus residencies are spread over the three-and-a-half-year curriculum, but Jasper’s first residency had to be virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. Even though the classes are taught remotely, Jasper feels a strong connection to the campus community. “Faculty are always concerned with your progress, and upperclassmen and alumni are extremely useful resources,” he observes. “For me, being Orange means being part of a family where you are respected for Syracuse University’s history of excellence. During our residency, we met so many successful alumni who provide a network that helps so many others. I can’t wait to do the same.”
Jasper’s vision of the future embraces that sense of inclusion. “I would love to use my diverse background to find cross-cultural commonalities with a career in family or criminal law. From what I’ve seen, a lot of personal and economic hardships come from a lack of awareness about opportunities, and I’d like to educate people to empower them. I want to be a voice and an advocate for those in our society who are too often underserved.”