[Bridgeview, IL] In late May, Northwestern College’s Bridgeview Campus students were privileged to enjoy a visit from Kathryn Szymanski, Chief Counsel of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command (ASC) and the Joint Munitions Command (JMC), based out of the Rock Island Arsenal of Illinois. Speaking before a room of 30+ students, she spoke to them as a potential employer, giving tips on resume writing, interviewing, and what they could expect as government employees, particularly, as paralegals. But she also regaled them with stories of some of the things she had come up against during her distinguished and award winning career as an attorney with the United States Army. Her visit was facilitated by Northwestern College’s Paralegal Club, particularly Tammy Ahlers-Marsh, the Club’s President as well as a US Army Desert Storm Veteran.
Times have changed, Szymanski explained to the students, and the roles that paralegals played in the early days of her career have advanced. Flowing into “military speak,” she noted that an entry level Paralegal was a GS-5, and when the students appeared puzzled, she explained that federal employment is categorized by the levels of the employment general schedule (GS), which is the predominant pay scale within the United States civil service. While an entry level paralegal may come in at a GS-5, she noted, with experience, promotions, and good work performance, employees can move up to higher GS levels, and along with that would come increases in pay. But, she explained, a lot had changed in federal employment since when she began her career. “Paralegals are now doing what entry level attorneys used to be doing,” she commented, which surprised a number of students in the audience.
Szymanski further noted that paralegals primarily fall onto the civilian side of the Department of the Army rather than military side, and that they’re always looking for new talent. When they are interested in hiring, key words in resumes are looked for, such as “leadership”, “integrity”, “respect”, and “selfless service” to name a few. A solid education is important, along with flexibility, but what they are really looking for, she commented, is for people who can think on their feet. Once hired, she noted, they’d find that the Rock Island Arsenal is a great place to work, where employees will find a good balance of work and family within their careers there.
Szymanski is the primary legal advisor for the ASC and JMC Commanding Generals and for all Command staff and field elements, leading a staff of attorney-advisors who provide legal services and advice for the ASC and JMC Headquarters and for the Commands’ national and global network of sites and field activities. Prior to this role she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Infrastructure Analysis based at the Department of the Army Headquarters in Washington, D.C. She also held assignments at the Headquarters of the US Army Material Command (AMC - the ASC’s higher headquarters) where she served as acting Executive Deputy to the Commanding General, and prior to that she first served as AMC Deputy Command Counsel and then Command Counsel.
Northwestern College’s Paralegal and Criminal Justice Programs frequently feature speakers like Chief Counsel Szymanski, sharing the tools of the trade and what students will find when they begin working in their fields. Complimenting textbook learning with real life experience provides students with a truer picture of what they’ll encounter when they enter their fields.
About Northwestern College:
Northwestern College (NC) is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, www.ncahlc.org. The college offers focused career-oriented associate degree and certificate programs with flexible schedules and a supportive faculty. Day, evening, weekend, online classes and online programs are available, with campuses in Chicago and Bridgeview as well as Online. More information can be found at www.northwesterncollege.edu or by calling toll-free (888) 205-2283.