Rogers State University Honors student Jake Brillhart will graduate a year early to pursue a Juris Doctor degree at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law with a dual Master of Arts at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Brillhart, a public affairs major from Collinsville, will be the second RSU student to attend Maurer Law and the first student in university history to attend the O’Neill School.
“Education and civil rights law is a fascinating intersection of the law for me. We often take for granted how much education affects people. Everyday millions of students of all ages wake up and go to school. I plan to use my law degree to better research and understand how these systems affect us all. I look forward to my education at both prestigious programs,” Brillhart said.
Maurer Law is one of the only law schools in the country with an education law and policy program while the O’Neill School is the leading program for graduate public affairs studies. Its program blends policy and practice in hands-on coursework. Each year U.S. News ranks the best graduate schools across the country in such areas as business, medicine, engineering and social science and humanities. The O’Neill School ranked No. 1 in 2020.
“Jake sets a positive example for other students, demonstrating that setting goals and pursuing these goals with energy and passion are the ingredients for success,” Dr. Mary Millikin, associate vice president for academic affairs, said. “He is a perfect fit for these programs. He is person who will endeavor relentlessly to change the world for the better, and he’ll do it all with the highest integrity.”
Recently appointed to the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, Brillhart is the first board member to be appointed prior to completing a bachelor’s degree. Dr. Steven Housel, associate professor in the department of history and political science, has been a mentor and is proud of Brillhart’s proactive nature and positive attitude to create real change. Additional history and political science faculty, including Dr. David Bath and Dr. Kenneth Hicks, gave Brillhart a solid foundation for success.
“There have been many champions at RSU who pushed me to learn deeply and critically in my studies. I call them champions because they truly were advocates for me and my education. People go into higher education to change lives and communities. I want to be a part of that change,” Brillhart said.
Brillhart has been a rising star at RSU. When RSU received a $9,500 grant to implement a total student voter registration program during the fall 2020 semester, he led the Civic Engagement Initiative, a coalition to educate and empower fellow students on their constitutional rights, their platform and their duty of democracy to voice their vote.
He also drafted a proposal to initiate a 3 + 2 bachelor’s-to-master’s degree program in public affairs and public administration between RSU and the University of Oklahoma. Last week, Brillhart’s research in racial funding disparities in Oklahoma higher education took first place at RSU’s annual Society for Higher Education interdisciplinary Learning and Discovery conference.
His academic, community and student organization involvement include service on the board of directors for the Student Government Association, Academic Integrity Committee, mentor of Indian Nations Council and a servant leader in Boy Scouts. His curiosity, strong cognitive abilities and kind and personable demeanor are important characteristics for success in law school and have made him a great ally and friend to many on campus.
“I’m proud to say that I have Jake Brillhart as a friend at RSU,” RSU student Trent Siever said. “When I first met Jake, he was Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of the Student Government Association. It was then that I learned about Jake’s passion to help and better the lives of any person he meets, and I knew he was an exemplary leader.”
Brillhart is equipped for the next step in his educational career because of attentive professors who are committed to his success.
“The public affairs degree has a rich tradition in interdisciplinary learning. Our department encourages students to incorporate learning from other departments and personal experiences. This inclusive approach expects students to research what they’re passionate about and collaborate with peers on community solutions to social problems. It’s learning about how to lead for the greater good,” Brillhart said.