Kevin Reilly Jensen
Colorado State Public Defender
BA Writing, 2013
How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?
Having an English degree with a writing concentration not only helped me get into law school and through it (as well as writing on to the Denver Law Review), it has also provided me with a solid foundation for my work in criminal defense. Reading and writing is the brunt of what I do every day, and my background enables me to effectively argue on behalf of my clients in court.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)? How did your experience in the English Department help you with these achievements?
My greatest accomplishments to date have to be the moments when I’ve been able to have a real impact on a client’s life for good. Being able to communicate with my clients has been key to any success I’ve had, and I have the English Department to thank for that.
Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?
Professor Lisa Langstraat helped me beyond compare. Her course in Principles of Literary Criticism has shaped academic trajectory and worldview more than any other part of my formal education. Professor Langstraat agreed to be my academic advisor and helped me navigate the requirements of my undergraduate education so I could get to law school in four years, and she was my Honor’s Thesis advisor to boot. I am so grateful I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful educator willing to go to bat for me. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without her help, encouragement, and guidance.
I chose to study English because the program was flexible enough for me to tailor it to my needs. As a prospective attorney, I needed classes where I could practice storytelling, as well as classes that taught technical writing and even how to communicate with an online audience. I was able to choose a series of courses that would be truly useful to my future career trying to communicate difficult ideas and arguments in a succinct and accessible way.
Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department? Or something you particularly miss?
I heard that smoking cigarettes is no longer allowed on campus – I’m going to miss seeing the beautiful panoply of introverted nonconformist artists in congregation sharing their thoughts and cigarettes outside Eddy.
What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?
Start a blog. Get a presence on every social media platform. Do it yesterday. Start writing. Who cares if it’s not perfect? Who cares if it’s not even good? You’ve got to start somewhere and you would be a fool not to use every tool at your disposal – particularly since you have so many free social media publication tools at your disposal! I maintained a blog full of political news and poetry, which enabled me to acquire a series of jobs, and even had a hand in my admission to law school. Write your own news articles, your own poems, your own prose – whatever it is you want to do eventually, start doing it now! Write, write, write, and then go ahead and write some more.
What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?
If you’re worried about finding gainful employment, what I did is I got a major in Business Administration, and was able to use that combination of writing and business to widen your business prospects. In doing so I have been fortunate enough to have worked in a variety of fields including communications, journalism, public relations, and for the offices of elected officials such as Congressman Jared Polis and Colorado Representative Dominick Moreno.
What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing?
I recently reread “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, which struck me twice as hard this time around after working for the public defenders.
What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
I’m politically active and enjoy golfing, snowboarding, attending Rapids’ soccer games, and sampling Colorado’s many fine small-business breweries.
Where will we find you in five years?
I plan to continue working for the Colorado State Public Defender system, and will hopefully have risen to a leadership position within my office.