by Meghan Stratton
Years after graduating from Harpur College, Emilia Naccarato Roll ’80 says she still feels strongly about the university.
“It was four wonderful years,” she says, referring to her time as a student. Thirty-two years later, Naccarato Roll returned to campus to talk to students about law school.
During her time at Harpur College, Naccarato Roll earned a degree in Law and Society, a program she helped to create, and went through what she calls an “evolving process” that led her to law school.
“Back then,” she says, “more women were being encouraged to pursue law.”
After graduating from Harpur College, Naccarato Roll went on to St. John’s University School of Law. She then became a corporate associate at Shearman & Sterling LLP. She is now a recruitment consultant at A.W. Rush, an independent legal recruitment firm that “navigates the legal community in Manhattan, helping lawyers who want to move from one firm to another.”
When evaluating lawyers, she says, she looks for the same qualities every lawyer should possess: “You want somebody who’s really focused in their practice area, smart, who’s committed, who’s knowledgeable.”
Naccarato Roll says that these qualities can be cultivated as an undergraduate, particularly in an environment such as Harpur College.
“The resources are here,” she says. “This is a phenomenal place. You need to tap into them and use them.”
According to Naccarato Roll, there are several things Harpur College undergraduates can do to prepare for successful careers in virtually any field.
Having “a faculty member that you can relate to, that you respect, that respects you,” she says, is “critically important.”
“It’s just instrumental in helping you become successful and navigate the university,” she says.
To accomplish this, Naccarrato Roll recommends pursuing a position as a teacher’s assistant, participating in an independent study program, or working on a senior thesis.
According to Naccarato Roll, all three of these areas will also contribute to another critical step as an undergraduate: to “expand your knowledge in a particular area really substantively.”
However, this does not mean studying one subject to the exclusion of others. In fact, she says having varied experiences “is the key.”
To Naccarato Roll, a liberal arts education is a great way to do this.
“I believe in liberal arts education absolutely,” she says. It develops what she calls “your knowledge base and your people base.”
“Education should be about filling your own brain and expanding your knowledge base, but also expanding your people base: who you know, the diversity of people, the diversity of ideas.”
This “broadening,” the cultivation of a knowledge base, communication skills, and language skills, is critical to all students, especially those looking to pursue legal careers.
“Law operates in the world so you need to know about finances, you need to know a little accounting, you need to know a little math, you need to know a little bit of economics, business, to succeed in the legal world,” she says.
According to Naccarato Roll, through Harpur College, “It’s there for every student to create a great profile for themselves and a great academic background.”
Naccarato Roll knows this from experience. As an undergraduate, she served as a resident assistant, a teacher’s assistant, a coordinator for the Law and Society program, and an intern for the public defender, all while pursuing a degree that she describes as “liberal arts within a liberal arts major.”
When she returned to campus on Oct. 5, Naccarato Roll spoke to a group of Harpur students about her experiences as an undergraduate and the importance of taking advantage of the wide range of opportunities offered by Harpur College.
“There’s plenty of time while you’re here to take full advantage of the university, the courses, the independent programs, the community,” she told students.
Naccarato Roll addressed success both in the legal world and in more general terms, fielding students’ questions on preparing for life after undergraduate studies and emphasizing the importance of exploring their interests, diversifying their studies, participating in experiential programs, and working with faculty mentors.
“Use every opportunity you can to be connected to the world that you want to eventually be in,” she said.
She particularly focused on the fundamental importance of networking and the satisfaction that comes with being able to help someone else in their career, advising students to stay connected to alumni at the schools they go to.
“Take it all in now,” she says. “You’ll be able to give back and pay back at another time in your life.”
Naccarato Roll, who sits on the board for a regional division of Gilda’s Club, a center named after Gilda Radner that offers support to cancer victims and their families, offered career advice and help to all of the students who attended her talk.
“I like to give back in ways that I can,” she says, which is why she wanted to come talk to Harpur students.
Harpur College and its alumni provide a wealth of valuable resources to students in order to teach them to live, think and even practice law in the world, she says.
“Learn from everything around you; learn from people, learn from reading; learn from listening,” she says. “Go to classes with the notion that ‘I want to learn in this class not just sit and go through the motions.’ ”
Last Updated: 12/10/14