Bujak's UM-Flint experiences led him to U-M Law School

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A young man in cap and gown speaking at a graduation ceremony
Joseph Bujak's experiences at UM-Flint prepared him to excel at U-M Law School.

Joseph Bujak knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in public service. At 17, he began an internship at the Oakland County 6th Circuit Court in Pontiac, which he has continued throughout his studies at the University of Michigan-Flint. Recently graduating with a double major in political science and history, Bujak was one of 13 Winter 2024 Maize & Blue Scholars, and he's poised to enter the highly competitive University of Michigan Law School in the fall. 

"When considering colleges, I knew I wanted to stay local to build upon my connections and relationships at the courthouse," Bujak said. "Not to put it too bluntly, but since I planned to continue to law school, I was also looking for the best bang for my buck. UM-Flint fit the bill on both accounts."

After enrolling at the downtown Flint campus, Bujak began studying varied topics to find a degree that fit his needs and future goals.

"I started exploring my options by taking intro classes during my first year and fell in love with political science," said Bujak. "I liked how the degree was structured – with its emphasis on writing – and the caliber of the professors also drew me in. That's also true of the history program, which is a passion project of mine. The scholarship at UM-Flint is impeccable; I have consistently been blown away by the faculty."

Bujak played an instrumental role in helping shape the pre-law experience of current and future students at UM-Flint. He began by co-founding and serving as president of the Pre-Law Society. 

"To be honest, it's kind of my baby. I collaborated with several phenomenal students to create the structure of the Pre-Law Society and help it become what it is today," said Bujak. "Through my work at the 6th Circuit Court, I met many inspiring attorneys and legal professionals, and the Pre-Law Society was one way to bring these experts to UM-Flint. 

"What we learned, though, was that many of these folks didn't always connect well with our community, with the needs and perspectives of Flint, so the society decided to try and bring in alumni like Marietta Robinson, who is a former commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Owen Agho, who is a tech attorney and also teaches at Georgetown University."

Justice Bernstein, left, poses with Bujak at the Access to Justice event

Another crowning achievement for Bujak was networking at the 6th Circuit Court and inviting Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein to speak on campus. Kimberly Saks, an associate professor of political science and the Pre-Law Society's faculty advisor, said the event's origins were "quintessentially Joe."

"Not only did he manage to bring a big-name speaker to campus, but he also got to know him (even having an inside joke with him) and his staff and ensured that the room was full of judges, lawyers and law students who our pre-law students could network with and learn from," Saks said. "It was honestly the first time in my years at UM-Flint that I was so convinced that a student was in charge at an event like this that I sat back and let it all happen under Joe's watch." 

In addition to helping found the Pre-Law Society, Bujak served in student government for two semesters and was an integral member of UM-Flint's Moot Court program.

"I truly loved working with newer students as a Moot Court captain and learning from their ideas and perspectives. My role was to help them use case law to shape their argument, but I also had to be open to their ideas and let their creativity take hold. That part has been inspiring – I've been surprised by some of the arguments they came up with, finding pieces of case law that I wouldn't have considered, and I learned a lot from them."

Bujak's mentorship experience highlights one of the critical elements of being named a Maize & Blue Scholar: public service.

"It was absolutely an honor to receive that recognition, especially given how heavily it weighs our service to the community," Bujak said. "I'm also a member of the Knights of Columbus, and service to others is one of my core tenets."

As Bujak continues his academic journey, he looks forward to Michigan Law. With less than 14% of applicants accepted, his dream of continuing to rep the Maize & Blue was anything but a sure thing.

"I am ecstatic, being a member of the incoming class, to have the rare opportunity to continue my education there," Bujak said. "Quite simply, the clinics, journals, and curriculum are some of the best in the world, let alone the country."

And his eventual goal? After spending some time practicing law, Bujak hopes to get involved in large-scale, nationwide education policy reform.

"I believe that it's a significant injustice that the place you're born will determine your educational prospects," said Bujak. "Our country needs to rectify this by using funding and nationwide policy reform to make our education system more geographically equitable.

"Many younger folks seem to have a bleak outlook on the world right now, and I want to counter that. I want to help create an environment where every single one of us can relentlessly pursue our dreams. I plan to do everything in my power to create the change I'd like to see. Because that's all we can do: Start working today to change the world of tomorrow."

Kat Oak is the communications specialist for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Education. She can be reached via email at [email protected].