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An Exercise in Juggling and Focus

Brittnie Watkins excels at keeping multiple balls in the air as she earns four UNLV degrees, mothers two, and fulfills a state Supreme Court clerkship.

People  |  Jun 23, 2016  |  By Kandy Delacruz
Brittnie Watkins

Brittnie Watkins at Boyd Law Library. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services) 

Most people would be content with one post-graduate degree. For Brittnie Watkins, four is the goal.

She already has earned her master of arts in criminal justice, a law degree, and a doctoral degree in educational psychology — all from UNLV. Now, she once again is enrolled — on a part-time basis — in UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, this time in pursuit of a master of laws degree in gaming law and regulation. In addition, she works full time as a judicial law clerk for Nevada Supreme Court Justice Michael L. Douglas.  

When not in school or at work, Watkins enjoys being a wife and a mother to two children, ages 1 and 9. She even coaches her 9-year-old’s soccer team.

It’s fair to say Watkins is one accomplished — and busy — lady.

Public Interest Fellowship

Watkins’ academic drive and passion for serving her community was nurtured by her experience as a Public Interest Fellow while studying for her law degree. The fellowship program offers financial resources, mentorship, and experiential learning opportunities to students with strong academic credentials, a demonstrated record of community service, and a commitment to public interest work.

“Boyd’s Public Interest Fellowship propelled me into a network of individuals with similar public service ambitions and provided the financial support I needed to pursue meaningful yet unpaid work, such as educating child witnesses about the court process,” Watkins said.

Her experience working with child witnesses would further fuel her academic success and most recent honor. Watkins earned the College of Education’s Dissertation of the Year Award for her dissertation, “Reducing Court-Related Stress Through Court Education: Examining Child Witnesses, Attorneys, and Parents” — an achievement that she says is a “tribute to Boyd’s superior writing program.”

The study of law and the pursuit of her doctorate were not, as one might imagine, dissimilar.

Juggling Act

“Balancing my law degree with doctoral studies was an unparalleled exercise in juggling and focus,” Watkins said. “It was, nonetheless, one of the most intellectually engaging and empowering experiences in my life.

“The educational psychology doctoral program was unlike law school in that it was driven by theory and research; law school required comparisons and application. Logical thinking was the norm in law school, while original solutions were the norm in graduate school — my dissertation being no exception.

“The opportunity to engage both programs was an opportunity to sharpen multiple blades at once, but it was also an opportunity to, through an interdisciplinary approach, prove the efficacy of a unique solution to a problem inherent in the American system of jurisprudence,” Watkins continued. “Through my dissertation, I demonstrated that Kids’ Court School, Boyd’s court education program, significantly reduces court-related stress in child witnesses whose testimony is impending.”  Merging law, psychology, and education to resolve a real-world problem such as anxiety in child witnesses is a good example of the results that integrating fields can offer, she said.

“Winning this award hopefully means more people will read my dissertation,” Watkins said. “In turn, I hope that means that more recognition will be brought to issues surrounding child witnesses, their testimonies, and the Kids’ Court School program that serves them.”

She credits her success to her dissertation committee, but is especially thankful to her advisor, Rebecca Nathanson, the law school’s associate dean for experiential learning and director of the Kids’ Court School. Nathanson, Watkins said, helped her find a home for her passions.

Future Plans

As she inches closer to earning her master of laws degree and nears the completion of her judicial clerkship this August, one might think Watkins would welcome the opportunity to stop and take a breath. But she has no plans to take it easy.

“I take pleasure in the challenge that accompanies the pursuit of knowledge. It’s the pursuit itself that I enjoy,” she explained. “I cannot say that there is one particular end goal that brings order to my alphabet soup. I want to do many things in the future, which includes changing the world.

“But first, I aim to do what I set out to do — immerse myself in the practice of law. I will be joining Pisanelli Bice in August as an associate.”