McGeorge alumna uses her legal training to make bills become law

Michelle Teran-Woolfork

Michelle Teran-Woolfork worked on a bill to make California the first state in the nation to give farmworkers overtime pay

Michelle Teran-Woolfork, MSL ’17, landed on a different career path than the one she initially planned on. Her original plan was to go to law school, become an attorney, and advocate for domestic violence survivors. The path she’s on right now still gives her the opportunity to make a difference, although in a different way and on behalf of many more people than she had imagined.

While finishing her undergraduate degree, Teran-Woolfork started interning full-time with the United Farm Workers (UFW) during the California Legislature’s most hectic time of year. “We were working on a bill with Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg during the end of session, and during all of that I became enamored with the Sacramento political process,” she said.

She continued working in grassroots and political organizing after graduating from undergrad, but she wanted to be able to do more.

“I had the opportunity of attending meetings with two veteran lobbyists we were working with who both had more than 30 years of experience. I wanted to be able to do what they could do, and I saw the Master of Science of Law at McGeorge as a way to add to my toolbox and help me be better at my job.”

The MSL program wound up helping Michelle while she was still earning her degree. One year into the program, while working at UFW, she worked on a bill to make California the first state in the nation to give farmworkers overtime pay. As the Legislature took its summer recess before the end of session, the bill did not have enough votes to pass.

“That summer, I was taking Persuasive Public Speaking,” said Teran-Woolfork, “In that class I started working on reframing and honing my message for when I talked to legislators about the bill. After having conversations with legislators, when the bill came up for a vote, it had more than enough votes to pass.”

After graduating from McGeorge with her MSL, Michelle left UFW and started working for an Assemblymember in the California Legislature. She quickly moved up from a Legislative Aide position to working as the Legislative Director for Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton).

“As a Legislative Director, my job is to prepare the package of bills that my member will work on in any given year. One of the coolest parts of the job is that I get to vet bill ideas early on and seek out the relationships to get things done. I’ve worked on issues I never imagined I’d work on. But I think that the most fulfilling part of my career is knowing that Californians want to have a voice in their government, and working in the Legislature for an Assemblymember, I help give them that.”