Autumn Hayes O’Leary ’99 discusses the benefits of a liberal arts education

For Autumn Hayes O’Leary ’99, who serves as a military lawyer in the Army, a liberal arts education was an education in society.

“Ripon also taught me about people,” she says. “It’s the people who hold an organization together and make it great. Ripon, through its staff, faculty and students, always focused on its people. The Army is the same. Investing time in others as well as taking time to learn from the diversity around you, helps develop and define you as an individual. It does not matter whether you are meeting people from another nation or just working with your internal staff. Recognizing the importance of diversity of thought is an essential part of success.”

O’Leary says she went into the practice of law for two primary reasons: the Army and Professor of Communication Jody Roy. She found Ripon’s ROTC program challenging and rewarding, and Roy helped her develop specific goals, including the idea of a career as an Army lawyer.

She was commissioned into the Engineer Corps but after law school, reassessed into the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Her first assignment was at Fort Bliss, Texas. As a legal assistance attorney, she provided wills, powers of attorney, and general advice on family law matters. She then moved to prosecuting cases as a trial counsel.

From 2006 to 2010, she was first the Chief of Administrative at the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) in Vicenza, Italy; and later the Chief of Military Justice. From November 2009
to July 2010, she deployed with 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team as its operational law attorney to Forward Operating Base Shank in Eastern Afghanistan. After returning in July 2010, she received her master’s degree in military law from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. She focused on international law, criminal law, fiscal law and contracts.

She currently is stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, for the United States Army Europe, serving as the Deputy Chief of International Law and Operations for Europe. “In the JAG Corps, we move assignments, changing jobs with each assignment,” O’Leary says. “Each time, it is a little like starting over. The strong and diversified education that Ripon provided helps me to stay focused. Where resolution to a task does not seem possible with one solution, I often look at the problem set a different way, and see if it can be accomplished with a better or faster