Rowena Brown Advanced Career in Public Service with MSL Degree

Rowena Brown advanced her career in public service with a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree from UC Law San Francisco.

After changing careers to pursue a future in public service, Rowena Brown of Oakland, California, decided to advance her skills in law and policymaking by enrolling in the Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program at UC Law San Francisco.

“I was interested in understanding how lawyers think and how to do legal research,” she said.

The MSL degree, which can be completed in one to four years, is geared toward professionals who want to gain a fuller grasp of the law as it applies to their fields. The special offering by UC Law SF allows students to earn a law-focused credential without committing as much time or money as is required to pursue a JD.

Before entering the field of public service, Brown worked in retail management for seven years. Then she took a political science class at a community college, which inspired her to follow a new career path. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Mills College. Later serving as a constituent liaison for an Oakland City Council member, she worked to help meet the needs of the community during the most difficult days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to starting the MSL Program in Fall 2021, Brown served as campaign manager for Mia Bonta, who was running for the California Assembly seat vacated by her husband, Rob Bonta, after he was appointed California Attorney General in April 2021. Through a hard-fought campaign, Brown helped Bonta win the race in August 2021, and later joined the assemblyperson’s staff. Now serving as Bonta’s district director, Brown works on legislation, community engagement, and constituent services.

After graduating with an MSL in December 2022, Brown said she has a deeper understanding of legal issues, including criminal justice, and is more confident in her legal research and writing skills, “This foundation of how to do legal research has already helped and equipped me.”

MSL students can concentrate on a specific field of law or pursue a general course of study. Brown focused on environmental law and took courses that expanded her knowledge of land use regulation. “I got to learn about the history of how land was zoned in this state, and how we can open up more doors to access land for affordable housing and green spaces,” she said

Brown credited the MSL Program with providing tools that helped her promote her first major piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 1520, which would make civic education more accessible to low-income students. The bill would let public schools partner with local nonprofits and community groups to help teachers with civic engagement lessons. “We know that in many communities with fewer resources, they can benefit from an outside party coming into help with that work,” she said. Though the bill did not advance in this year’s legislative session, Brown said she will continue advocating for it.

Looking to the future, Brown said the knowledge and confidence gained from the MSL Program will serve her well as she pursues her dream of becoming an elected official. “I would love to work in a capacity where I can advocate for young people, working families, and communities that don’t necessarily have a voice or have been historically underserved and under-resourced,” she said.