The end of Alixis Russell’s law school career isn’t turning out the way she expected.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Russell and her fellow Louisville Law classmates returned from spring break to a drastically different landscape than the one they had left. All School of Law classes are being delivered remotely. Exams have been delivered virtually. The faculty voted to move to a pass/fail grading system. Graduation has been postponed.
And for Russell, the pandemic has meant something else: as a member of the Kentucky National Guard, she has been called to state active duty.
She explains that this means a unit is “called to do whatever the Commonwealth or the governor needs you to do.”
Russell, whose role with the National Guard has been as a paralegal specialist working with JAG attorneys, was called to pack and load boxes for the Dare to Care Food Bank. Some of her fellow soldiers worked the loading docks and sorted donations.
The nature of these tasks made the call for social distancing difficult, Russell acknowledges.
“I kind of just accepted that there was going to be an increased risk for myself and others,” she says, noting that supervisors took soldiers’ temperatures and checked for symptoms of COVID-19 twice a day and placed tape on the floor to encourage safe distancing.
And she acknowledges that other essential workers — including soldiers who are helping at hospitals or transporting patients — have even more exposure.
During this mission, Russell didn’t attend her law school classes. She says her professors have been very supportive and flexible, as they have been about her role with the National Guard all during law school.
That support has been invaluable during a mentally and emotionally draining time, Russell says.
“This time is very stressful and there’s a lot of anxiety. Soldiers are not exempt from that,” she says.
And as a 3L during this pandemic, “there is always something to be worried about and grieving,” she says, noting the sadness over missing the end of the semester with classmates and uncertainty about the bar exam.
Russell, president of the School of Law’s American Constitution Society, had to return to the building to turn in her office key. While there in the empty building, she reflected on her law school experience. Law school wasn’t ending as she had planned, she realized, but in the midst of sadness, she was still confident her future would be bright.
“This has been a lesson in resilience and flexibility,” she says. “I’m optimistic for the future. That optimism just looks different now.”