Introducing some of McGeorge School of Law’s newest students

A collage of portraits of 8 people


Tiyesha Watts, Seth Totten, Brandi Kroll, John McDowell, Ian Tarter, Aliyah Sipra, Muhammed “Yakup” Altun, and Keola Kekona Turro are first-year students pursuing a degree at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California.

This fall, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law was pleased to welcome more than 230 students to its Sacramento campus. Fifty-three different undergraduate degrees from 71 different universities are represented in the class.

The 176 JD students in this year’s entering class include 54 percent women and 38 percent first-generation college students. For the first time in the history of the law school, a majority of the incoming class of students identify as racially or ethnically diverse. 51 percent of students in the class are from marginalized populations.

For the fifth consecutive year, the entrance credentials of the incoming class exceeded those of the previous class.

Our incoming students enter law school during different stages of their life. The ages of our incoming students range from 20 to 57. This year’s students also speak or sign 27 languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Tagalog, Farsi, Italian, American Sign-Language, and Russian.

Our incoming students bring a range of experiences and talents to their legal studies, including former collegiate athletes, a police cadet, a published poet, a communications director for a member of Congress, a ranch manager, a DACA Dreamer, an aircraft pilot, a school psychologist, and several students who have served in the armed forces including the U.S. Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and the South Korean Army. They have run film festivals, completed marathons, worked as deckhands, participated in Mock Trial and Moot Court competitions, and many have served their communities by volunteering.

Visit the website for a full entering class profile.

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First-year JD student Aliyah Sipra. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Meet our JD Students

Aliyah Sipra, JD

First-year law student Aliyah Sipra, of Fresno, chose McGeorge based on the “diversity of opportunities” for students to gain practical experience.

“McGeorge offers many clinics, externships, their Mock Trial and Moot Court teams are renowned, and the professors also have a great reputation,” Sipra said. “This is something that I knew going into law school was critical for a successful career.”

Prior to law school, she volunteered with Islamic Relief USA, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and the American Cancer Society. Sipra says that she decided to go to law school to help diversify the legal profession and advocate for diverse communities. 

“I want to be someone who uses that law as a vehicle, a vehicle for social change, for justice. I want to be someone who can provide that relief, that voice, to someone who feels uncomfortable being in a courtroom, or a police station,” she said.

After law school, Sipra is interested in pursuing both business and human rights law.

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First-year JD student Brandi Kroll. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Brandi Kroll, JD

First-year law student Brandi Kroll, of Oxnard, was motivated to pursue a law degree by the inequality that surrounded her in the low-income community that she grew up in. 

“McGeorge is raising a new generation of lawyers and advocates who I know will go on to do great things,” Kroll remarked.

So far, Kroll’s favorite part of her time at McGeorge has been learning from the school’s renowned faculty. 

“It’s refreshing to come to class each day knowing every lesson will be a unique experience. The professors challenge us to think outside the box and push us to learn in creative and fulfilling ways,” Kroll said.

A first-generation college student and first-generation law student, Kroll looks forward to being an advocate for marginalized groups.

“I want to work as an advocate and use my career in the legal profession to push the boundaries of the American legal system and break down the barriers that for so long have kept people from the help they deserve,” she said.

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First-year JD student Ian Tarter. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Ian Tarter, JD

First-year law student Ian Tarter moved between 35 different homes growing up, before settling in Sacramento. He chose McGeorge based on the school’s “amazing” program, which was close to home.

“I was so taken by the campus, community, and staff,” he commented.

One of Tarter’s motivations for committing to law school was his son, Ari. 

“I knew I wanted our son to see me pursue my education. He is going into high school, and I really wanted to normalize continued education for him,” Tarter said.

Tarter’s favorite aspect of McGeorge is unequivocal: the people. 

“From the admissions team to the team at the library to my fellow 1Ls to my Torts Fellow to the professors and deans. Everyone here has wanted nothing more than to guide, teach, challenge, and support me and my classmates,” he said.

Before law school, Tarter worked at Apple, where he started in sales and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a Project Manager for supplies in Cupertino. He is interested in both intellectual property law and public policy.

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First-year JD student Seth Totten. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Seth Totten, JD

First-year law student Seth Totten, of Santa Clarita, spent the last six years working at a law firm specializing in plaintiff's litigation for Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies. It was there that he first developed an interest in law.

“I decided to go to law school because I have come to realize that I enjoy the practice of law. It can be very frustrating, but is also extremely rewarding to solve a massive problem your client had,” Totten reflected.

In addition to his passion for law, Totten is an avid runner. He was a 2020 Olympic marathon trial qualifier.

Totten, who is a father to two little boys, was interested in maintaining his job and attending law school concurrently. This led him to McGeorge’s part-time evening program, which is currently ranked as the No. 3 part-time law program in California.

“I picked McGeorge because I wanted to continue to work and McGeorge's evening program is phenomenal,” he said.

Since starting law school, Totten has developed a camaraderie with the other students in the evening program. 

“I have enjoyed the vast breadth of life experiences that are represented in the evening program. Hearing people's stories, what all they are doing, why they are there, and how they are handling everything has been fascinating. It's a focused and diverse group at night!”

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First-year MPA student Tiyesha Watts. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Meet our graduate, online, and international program students

Tiyesha Watts, MPA

First-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) student Tiyesha Watts, of South-Central Los Angeles, aspires to be the CEO of her own non-profit organization that offers support to formerly incarcerated people and helps them regain their rights. McGeorge offered the best program to equip her with the skillset needed to make her dream a reality.

A former Senate Fellow, Watts is currently a legislative and policy advocate for the California Academy of Family Physicians, where she advocates for primary care and healthcare access, health care workforce, behavioral health, and reproductive health access.

When considering her options for graduate schools, McGeorge stood out to Watts because the class schedule accommodates a working professional.

“I am able to work full-time while completing the MPA degree on a part-time basis,” Watts said. “I feel very supported and welcomed.”

As the only MPA program offered by an accredited law school in California, McGeorge’s focus on statutes, regulations, and strategic use of legal processes was also appealing to Watts. 

“This is an excellent way to understand the interconnections of law and policy from an institution in the state's Capitol,” she said.

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First-year MPA student John McDowell. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

John McDowell, MPA

First-year MPA student John McDowell, of San Carlos, is retired from a career in marketing and political communications. Yet, a passion for work in the field of educational policy led him to explore public administration as a McGeorge student.

“I was the volunteer director of an urban tutoring and mentoring program in Washington, D.C.,” explained McDowell. “That practical experience opened my eyes to what is happening in our local educational system.” 

McDowell has continued to keep in touch with these former students, who are now adults. So far, McDowell has appreciated the intimate nature of the MPA program and McGeorge’s location in Sacramento. 

“I like the expressed collegiality of the faculty and the collaborative nature of the classes,” he said.

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First-year MSL student Keola Kekona Turro. Photo courtesy of Keola Kekona Turro.

Keola Kekona Turro, MSL

First-year Master of Science in Law (MSL) student Keola Kekona Turro, of Sonora, never considered law as a career path.  However, after serving in the U.S. Army as a medic, the opportunity to help people through law appealed to him.

As he researched the mission statements of different universities, McGeorge was the only one that stood out to him. 

“McGeorge is an institution whose goal is to produce successful leaders, who work to build ethical, diverse, and just communities through service to the public, and that sounds like a great place to learn and meet positive people,” Turro said.

“Beginning a journey in law can feel intimidating, but having the support of our professors, administrators, and alumni is an amazing feeling,” Turro reflected. “I believe that anything worth doing is never going to be easy, so to have these incredible people here to answer our questions and point us in the right direction is invaluable.”

Upon finishing the MSL program, Turro intends to run for local office. 

“I plan on using my MSL credentials to better understand laws and policies, so I can assist those I serve in my community,” Turro said.

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First-year LLM student Muhammed “Yakup” Altun. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Muhammed “Yakup” Altun, LLM

First-year LLM student Muhammed “Yakup” Altun, of Istanbul, is pursuing an LLM in U.S. Law & Policy. Already an attorney in Turkey, Altun explains that earning an LLM is a great opportunity to both challenge himself and specialize in a specific area of law.

“I am planning to be an international intellectual property lawyer, and I believe earning an LLM degree in the United States will be very helpful to achieve my goal,” Altun said.

Altun chose McGeorge School of Law, in part, because of the proximity to the State Capitol, as well as Silicon Valley and San Francisco. 

“As a lawyer who wants to specialize and practice IP law, having an education in this location, a location that is the innovation hub of the United States and even the world, will be very advantageous,” he said.

“McGeorge has a campus dedicated to just law and its students' living environment and from the Dean to the cleaning staff, everybody in it is so friendly and encouraging,” Altun said. “It creates a great opportunity to interact and talk with both professors and other law students.”

Why McGeorge School of Law?


For more information about McGeorge School of Law, visit our website.

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