Growing up in El Paso, Texas, the idea of relocating to Iowa would have been surprising enough for a young Katrina Crouch. However, the reason behind her eventual move was even more unexpected: her passion for writing.
Family has always held a special place in Katrina's heart. As a kid, she enjoyed having both sets of grandparents just a stone's throw away on the same side of town. These strong family ties significantly shaped her college decision after high school, making the choice to attend the nearby University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) easy and natural.
“I’ll never forget when my parents and I moved to the opposite side of town because we wanted a different house – it was a huge deal for my family,” says Katrina. “So, when it was time for college, my grandparents were pretty happy that I chose UTEP, to say the least.”
During her time at UTEP, Katrina found herself drawn to the Law School Preparation Institute (LSPI). The program, held during the summer, is known for its intensive curriculum. It focuses on developing critical thinking skills, analytical writing proficiency, and study habits vital for those aspiring to pursue a legal education.
“I always knew I wanted a career that would allow me to make a difference in my community, so I thought the legal route would be the perfect opportunity,” Katrina says. “While in LSPI, I had so much fun writing memos and learning skills I had never been taught before. Writing became one of those things I just really wanted to nail down.”
As she explored various areas of LSPI, Katrina developed a passion for legal writing. During this time, she met Professor Bill Weaver, who teaches the torts section of the program. Weaver’s guidance and mentorship proved to play a significant role in Katrina’s journey to law school.
While grading Katrina’s first writing assignment in LSPI, Weaver immediately recognized her talent. His words, “You should be a lawyer,” took Katrina by surprise. “I did a double take and was like, are you sure? You got that from my paper?” she recalls.
According to Weaver, it wasn’t just Katrina’s paper that convinced him of her ability to be a lawyer, but also how she communicated with her professors and fellow students.
“Over the last 25 years, we’ve had hundreds of students go through the Institute. Sort of by definition, our students are generally excellent (we have an admissions process and interview all applicants). Even set against that background, Katrina stands out. She is earnest, analytical, and can quickly sort out real problems from illusory ones,” says Weaver. “When I read her paper, I noticed that she was direct and economical with language – two qualities that are good in any writing – especially legal writing.”
With Weaver’s encouragement, Katrina began exploring law schools renowned for their writing programs. Among the options was the University of Iowa College of Law. Initially, the idea of moving to Iowa seemed daunting. However, as Katrina delved deeper into Iowa Law’s writing program, her reservations transformed into excitement.
“I remember jokingly telling Professor Weaver, I can’t go there. It’s too cold. I don’t even have a jacket,” says Katrina. “But then, when I started researching more and more about Iowa, the writing program stood out to me as something really awesome.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Iowa Law provided prospective students the unique opportunity to attend classes virtually. Katrina found the experience intriguing and was eventually drawn to visit campus in person during her final year of undergrad. The sense of community she felt during her visit solidified her decision to move to Iowa.
“While touring the area, I knew that this was where I needed to be for the next three years. The sense of community I felt was evident. I noticed right away that the environment is very much non-competitive – like everyone’s competitive with themselves but not amongst each other. This welcoming feeling combined with Iowa Law’s strength in writing just made my decision a no-brainer,” Katrina says.
Now in her third year at Iowa Law, Katrina has wholeheartedly embraced her love for writing. She was a member of the Journal of Gender, Race, and Justice and is further honing her writing skills as a tutor in the Writing and Academic Success Center for the second consecutive year. Her role as a tutor, where she offers guidance, support, and feedback on various writing tasks, is an aspect of her law school journey that she deeply cherishes. “It’s truly my pride and joy,” says Katrina.
The Writing and Academic Success Center supports students in three ways. First, it serves as an extension of the first-year Legal Analysis, Writing and Research curriculum, where students can receive individual tutoring sessions to supplement feedback from their professors. Second, it helps students beyond their first year by providing guidance on coursework, journal articles, writing samples, and more. Third, the Center offers academic success services for all students, including individual mentoring and programs focused on specific law school success skills.
Katrina acknowledges that her time in the Writing and Academic Success Center would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of Professor Dawn Anderson.
“Professor Anderson has made such a profound impact on my time here, even before my involvement with the writing center,” Katrina says. “I will never forget when she took the extra time to ask everyone how we were feeling on the first day of class. She created this open space that I admire so much. As law students, we often don’t take enough time to stop and check in with ourselves. She helped me realize that my voice and opinion matter. And for extending a position at the writing center, I cannot thank her enough. It has become such a home for me and given students an invaluable support system.”
To be a tutor in the Writing Center, a student must “be a good and active listener, able to prioritize suggestions, be an effective teacher, and be compassionate and understanding.” According to Anderson, Katrina goes the extra mile to create a friendly and collaborative environment for students to get feedback and help.
“Katrina is one of the most positive people I know,” says Anderson. “She believes passionately in our work at the Writing Center and is committed to ensuring that the difference we make extends beyond her tenure at Iowa Law. She does everything she can to provide a welcoming environment for students and to make new tutors feel welcome and appreciated.”
For Katrina, working as a tutor in the Writing & Academic Success Center has been mutually beneficial. While students learn from the tutors, Katrina says she’s equally enriched by the diverse perspectives students bring to their writing.
“Being a tutor is mutually beneficial. As much as the students learn from me, I also learn from them. Everyone has a different point of view when it comes to writing, and there are so many good ways to do it. We don’t have many opportunities to share our strategies in the classroom, so I love that the writing center can provide that,” says Katrina.
Professor Anderson’s goal for tutors in the Writing & Academic Success Center is to equip them with skills they can carry forward in their careers and use for the greater good. From her perspective, Katrina has already proven her ability to be successful in the real world.
“Teaching others a skill is one of the most effective ways to ensure one’s mastery of the skill,” says Anderson. “Katrina has repeatedly stressed how her writing skills have improved drastically since working in the Writing & Academic Success Center (and she was a very strong writer after her first year); she has also stressed the direct translation of these skills to her summer legal work and her successful job search.”
Katrina’s countless hours in the Writing & Academic Success Center have paid off. Upon graduating in May 2024, she’s set to join Morgan and Morgan in Nashville, Tennessee, the number one personal injury firm in the United States.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” Katrina says. “I think as lawyers, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the people we represent are human beings, not just names on paper. My professors at Iowa Law have always made a point to remind us of that throughout the years. I kept that in the back of my mind when I was applying for jobs, and I’m grateful to have found an employer who is dedicated to those they represent.”