A new full-ride law school scholarship is helping veterans

Two Marines were surprised when they received ASU law school scholarships

Two first-year law students were granted newly created full-ride scholarships to ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law for being Marine veterans.

The awarded Marine Corps veterans, Christopher Senn and Conner Pursell, didn't know about the full-ride scholarship program because it hadn't been publicly announced when the donor sent notice to the recipients via email.

"I was shocked and thought it was spam at first." Senn said. "I was gonna come to ASU regardless, and the scholarship was a cherry on top because I now have employment freedom and the ability to focus on getting a job."

In addition to funding multiple programs dedicated to leadership and development, Deborah Carstens, wife of former attorney and Marine veteran Bill Carstens, decided to provide more funding for Marine and Special Forces veterans attending ASU's law school after attending the annual ASU Law Scholarship Luncheon in October 2017.

The 2018 scholarship started providing awards for up to four first year law students pursuing a JD degree. Two recipients must be veterans from the Marine Corps and two from the Special Forces, including the Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, MARSOC and RECON.

Eric Border, the assistant director of financial aid at the law school, works alongside the scholarship committee board.

"Students selected for this scholarship usually have a great story to tell and show they need financial support," Border said. "The donor has a true passion about giving back to veterans and the community."

While typical first-year law students may struggle with difficulties funding their degrees and living expenses without having a job, veterans using their GI Bill may face unique limitations in affording their law degrees.

"Most financial aid issues veterans experience is exhausting their GI Bill in their undergraduate career and needing funding for their graduate career," Border said.

Senn served in the Marine Corps as an aircraft systems operator private controlling military-grade drones for confidential missions for five years. 

He was awarded the Richard Romley Scholarship. The award was named after an ASU law graduate who served in the Marines and was awarded multiple honararies, including the Purple Heart, for his service in the Vietnam War.

As a 17 year-old, Senn deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom. He left the Marine Corps in 2015 and came to Arizona where he owns four properties.

"The primary reason I came to law school is to learn about real estate and tax law to interrelate my properties and save money on taxes," Senn said.

Pursell was also pleasantly surprised when he received the full-ride scholarship.

"This will not only help me, but also my wife and two kids," he said. 

Pursell's scholarship is named after R.J. Mitchell, an ASU graduate and Marine veteran who saved the lives of seven trapped Marines while in combat in Iraq and was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest military honorary.

With one year left of his GI Bill, Pursell would have struggled with finances next year.

Pursell was also 17 when he joined the Marine Corps. He worked as a staff sergeant welder repairing heavy equipment because he enjoys completing difficult tasks.

He served 10 years on active duty and four years in the reserves while deployed in 2007 to Iraq and 2012 to Afghanistan.

"I learned discipline while being in the military from being dedicated to task and missions and learning how to complete them properly," Pursell said. 

As a vehicle commander in Iraq making decisions in the humvee car, Pursell said it was a stressful experience.

"I had to watch out for IED's and prepare roads where IED's went off to ensure safety of the other units," Pursell said.

He is thinking about going back into the military for the law program after receiving his JD.

"When I was in the Marine Corps, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go to law school," Pursell said. "Challenges improve yourself."

 Reach the reporter at mdhunte2@asu.edu or follow @masaihuntertv on Twitter.

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