Alexandra Havrylyshyn JD, Ph.D. (JSP) ’18

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Education: McGill University B.A. 2008, M.A. 2012
Affiliations: Student Director, Berkeley Law Mindfulness Group

There are many different ways students can do the J.D. and Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) programs simultaneously. For my part, I tookall of the JSP coursework first—which is seminar-based, interdisciplinary law and society work. That took four years. Then I took my qualifying exams and wrote my prospectus for my dissertation. Then I did the J.D. courses for two years.  This year I am writing up the results of my dissertation research.

When I started the J.D. courses I found them to be stressful in a different way than any of my Ph.D. or Master’s or undergraduate work had been. It’s like being immersed in a totally different way of thinking, almost a different language. The cold calling was especially scary, and didn’t fit with the way I learned. I was judging myself a lot. I had to learn to take care of myself so that I could keep up endurance and finish it all.

I joined the mindfulness group to learn tools to manage stress and increase focus so I could better process the cases and readings for my first-year law classes. The practice has helped me find a sense of peace and equanimity in situations that would normally be very stressful. I also truly believe mindfulness makes our minds more efficient. I never sit down and think,“I feel like writing!” Mindfulness has helped discipline me to write whether or not I feel like it, much like the way I have a daily meditation practice.  That kind of discipline also permeates into other areas of my life.

Berkeley Law Mindfulness Group gave me a community of people who are like minded. Some of my peers grew up practicing meditation.Others, like me, were new to it. Faculty and staff here have been forward thinking about using mindfulness in the legal profession. It’s made me feel like I have a home at Berkeley Law.