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By Kristen Cole   Date: 5/12/09 Bookmark and Share

Taking it One Step at a Time

Every student who arrives at Smith College does not develop an instant love for the school. Place graduating senior Shain M. Neumeier, of Los Angeles, in that category.

Neumeier, a history major, was initially attracted to the college by its beautiful architecture and the friendly welcome she received during her campus visit. But, she says, “I had a bit of a hard time adjusting socially.”

Fast-forward four years and the 21-year-old Neumeier is now planning staying on the East Coast after graduation to remain close to Smith and return for various events. She praises the role that her college has played in her life.

“I’m really glad to be done with the work but I could spend another four years here,” said Neumeier. “What I’ll miss most about Smith is the kind of community and home that you can feel part of.”

In the fall, Neumeier will begin graduate school at Suffolk University Law School in Boston on what amounts to a full scholarship—an accomplishment “almost unheard of” in law school, according to Stacie Hagenbaugh, director of the Career Development Office.

Neumeier’s decision to pursue disability law, which falls under the rubric of health and biomedical law, has a direct personal connection. Born with a cleft lip and related medical conditions, Neumeier identifies with the feeling of “being on the outside,” she says, and is passionate about the treatment of disabled people.

At Smith, she was a member of Body Talk, an organization focused on body image. She has also connected with several online communities that educate and advocate for the disabled.

Couple that with her passion for debate, and Neumeier’s choice to pursue disability law was not a stretch. “It was suggested to me by everyone I know,” said Neumeier, “because I like to argue so much.” 

Her debating skills stand out in the mind of Ernest Benz, Neumeier’s adviser and favorite professor.

“What I find most striking about Shain is her forthrightness,” said Benz, associate professor of history. “She is not afraid to say the unsayable whether in a classroom discussion or a campus one.”

Neumeier credits her debate skills to her father, Edward, who challenged her to support her opinions on “everything from what happened at school to whether you should be able to hang a Confederate flag outside a building.”

As she prepares to leave Smith for Cambridge and law school, Neumeier is both looking ahead and thinking about the occasions that will draw her back to Northampton.

Atop that list is ConBust, the annual a three-day sci-fi/fantasy/anime/gaming convention hosted by Smith’s science fiction and fantasy club. The convention attracts hundreds of fans to campus to hear the industry’s top authors discuss such topics as making believable villains, the science of magic and gender bending. And then there are the Northampton restaurants Neumeier vows to return to regularly—Joe’s Café, Spoleto and Pizzeria Paradiso among them.

And as her path wends away from campus, Neumeier aims to remedy wrongs committed against the disabled through the law just as she did her rigorous academic assignments at Smith. “I’ll tackle it one step at a time.”



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