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Tricia Hoffman-Simanek '98 Headshot

Undergraduate Program

Tricia Hoffman-Simanek '98

Criminal Justice, English

Connections to Career

Tricia Hoffman-Simanek `98 studied English and criminal justice at Mount Mercy. The knowledge she gained and the connections she made at Mount Mercy helped her get into a top 25 law school and establish a career as a successful lawyer.

MMU: Was law something you knew you wanted to pursue throughout your undergraduate years, or is it something that came to you later in college?

THS: I started at Mount Mercy as a double major in biology and chemistry, but spring semester I took the required freshman composition class with Dr. Jim Grove. Sometime during that semester, Dr. Grove saw that I had a skill and asked me, “Have you ever thought about being a lawyer?” I had never actively thought about diving into that pursuit until Dr. Grove posed his question to me. It took the validation of someone else—someone who I respected and valued—seeing those strengths in me, that led me to reconsider my direction, and ultimately led me to change my majors to English and criminal justice.

It took the validation of someone else—someone who I respected and valued—seeing those strengths in me, that led me to reconsider my direction, and ultimately led me to change my majors to English and criminal justice.

Tricia Hoffman-Simanek '98
Criminal Justice, English

MMU: Did connections you made while at Mount Mercy help you find your footing as a lawyer?

THS:  While I left the state to attend the University of Notre Dame for law school, I always had the intention of returning to Iowa to practice law. I believed that Iowa—in its size, pace, and standard of living—would better provide opportunities to pursue a life as a full-time lawyer and have a family. So, as I sought employment during my first summer after law school, I researched who in Cedar Rapids was a lawyer and a Mount Mercy graduate, and narrowed my requests for summer associate opportunities to those individuals. The Mount Mercy alumni network did not disappoint, as I received an opportunity to interview at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll because of my letter to a S&I lawyer and Mount Mercy alum, Nancy Penner. I will also note that some other alumni to whom I reached out—while they may not have been able to offer opportunities—they still took the time to return the letter with a note or call.

MMU: How have you changed since college graduation?

THS: Apart from the fact that I am married nearly 19 years and am a mother of 3 children, ages 7, 9, and 12, I continue to grow spiritually—a connection that was first deepened with Sunday afternoon masses.  I feel that having the perspective of continuing to visit campus and seeing young people develop their independence and identities, I appreciate the power a strong institution—one committed to the development of one’s mind, knowledge and spirit—can have on enabling these pursuits.

MMU: Do you feel that your Mount Mercy education prepared you to enter law school with confidence?

THS: No question. While it was a dream and goal to be accepted by a top 25 law school, it never even entered my mind that I was not as qualified or prepared as anyone else in attendance, whether they were coming from Harvard, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, or anywhere else.  Indeed, I thrived at NDLS precisely because of the solid foundation I had from the professors at MMU, and graduated with my J.D. cum laude.

I thrived at NDLS precisely because of the solid foundation I had from the professors at MMU, and graduated with my J.D. cum laude.

Tricia Hoffman-Simanek '98
Tricia Hoffman-Simanek '98

MMU: What does a Mount Mercy education mean to you?

"Students at Mount Mercy succeed academically, but it is the liberal arts education that molds them into well-rounded people."

THS: Students at Mount Mercy succeed academically, but it is the liberal arts education that molds them into well-rounded people. Mount Mercy offers a wealth of opportunities for students to expand their minds and refine leadership skills, as well as enhance themselves spiritually. While at Mount Mercy, I was a part of the clubs sponsored by or related to my major; I was also involved with the Peace and Justice Forum through Amnesty International. Professors and staff at MMU are passionate about their students discovering what motivates and drives them, which is critical for a young person to recognize on the road to determining how they can contribute to and give back to our society in a meaningful and self-satisfying way.

MMU: Do you have any advice for current undergraduate Mustangs who are considering applying to law schools?

THS: Use your time as an undergraduate to spread your wings, trying, and sometimes failing, at different pursuits, all while learning new things. Take a course in a subject about which you know nothing, as it might broaden your horizons. I strongly encourage students to get involved in the Mount Mercy community and take the time to get to know your professors in all your classes, both in general education and in your major. Having a strong letter of recommendation from a professor outside your major can really set you apart. The advantage of a school the size of Mount Mercy is that your professors will know you both inside and outside of the classroom, and that matters when law schools are trying to get a sense of who you are as an individual.

The advantage of a school the size of Mount Mercy is that your professors will know you both inside and outside of the classroom, and that matters when law schools are trying to get a sense of who you are as an individual.

Tricia Hoffman-Simanek '98
Criminal Justice, English

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