March 10, 2014

Snapshot of a 2014 JD: Kya Marienfeld

Get to know current Lewis & Clark Law Students through JD Candidate Halah Ilias’s blog posts on her classmates.

“I had a few classes with Kya my first year of school.  However, I was able to get to know her better last year when we both served as teaching assistants for Legal Analysis and Writing.  Kya is resourceful and an environment law lover. She is also a fantastic writer.  I imagine her taking great strides towards improving and preserving the environment – wherever she ends up!”


Halah asked Kya the following questions.  Here are her answers:

What’s your educational background?

I attended the University of Minnesota for undergrad, where I majored in History and minored in Environmental Geoscience. I originally completed my coursework in Middle Eastern History, but I later decided to create my own concentration area and wrote my thesis on American Environmental History. 

What about your family background?

I was born in Duluth, Minnesota. My parents divorced when I was a baby and although I was their only child, I share my Dad with a half-brother who is ten years older. As a kid, my Mom and I moved around quite a bit, so I lived about equal time growing up in Minnesota, South Carolina, and Missouri, which is where I graduated from high school. My mom remarried when I was twelve and I have a Step-dad and two Step-sisters who are slightly younger than me. I feel like I’ve gotten to experience every possible situation because, depending on how I look at it, I am an only child, and both the youngest and the oldest sibling! My Mom is a school guidance counselor, my Dad is a naturalist and author, and my Step-dad is an environmental consultant. Although there are a lot of doctors and teachers in my extended family, I’ll be the first lawyer!

Why did you decide to go to law school?

I have always loved research, writing, and problem-solving and, although, I originally intended to stay in historical research and work in academia, earth sciences and the environment have always been a huge part of my life. I spent a lot of time outdoors with my family growing up, and throughout college, I worked as a wilderness guide in the summers. Eventually I decided that I wouldn’t be happy unless I pursued a career that helped to protect the wild places I love so much. When I discovered environmental law, it was all I could see myself doing from then on. For someone who loves intellectual challenges, searching for impossible solutions, and Mother Earth, it has been love ever since!

What is your favorite part about Lewis & Clark?

The atmosphere of the school. L&C is this beautiful wonderful place where everyone is kind and genuinely supportive of each other, and yet, very motivated and driven. Everyone knows what they want, but they go about getting it by improving from within instead of being competitive and lifting themselves up by putting others down. I can’t imagine a better climate for law school and I’m so thankful to have found this community.

What is your least favorite part about Lewis & Clark?

Well, I really wish Wood Hall had better cell service… but that is about it.

What are your future job and career goals?

I would love to be a staff attorney at a public interest environmental organization, litigating public lands and natural resources issues. Come this fall, however, I will be serving as a judicial clerk for the Alaska Superior Court in Fairbanks, Alaska. Although I love Portland, I can’t wait to move back to somewhere that has a real winter!

What do you think prospective students should know about law school?

Always make time for the things outside of classes that will help you on your way toward your future goals or even just help you stay grounded. You may hear that just focusing on classes and getting good grades is the only important thing in law school, but some of the most valuable experiences I’ve had at Lewis & Clark, things that have really helped set me on the career path I want to be on, are volunteer positions and my involvement with student organizations. 

What is an interesting part about your background?  Or in other words, how do you contribute to the diversity of Lewis & Clark?

Unlike a lot of other students here, even the other students who came specifically because of the environmental law program, I have never planned to stay in the Pacific Northwest after graduation. Although I love it here (who wouldn’t?!), my reason for studying environmental law at Lewis & Clark was to take the best education I could get and bring it back to other places in the country with serious environmental issues that don’t have as many advocates already working on their behalf. The PNW attracts and keeps a lot of very effective environmental litigators, in large part because of L&C, but there are many other places that could really use strong advocates for the environment and natural resources- my plan has always been to eventually move back to the Upper Midwest to do just that!


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