When Juliana Ratner ’08 visited Warren Wilson’s campus for the first time, she may have enjoyed her encounter with a Clydesdale horse on Broyles Ridge, but what impressed her the most was the strong women she found plumbing, operating chainsaws and leading work crews.
“It stood out,” she said. Now, after learning to become a leader herself at Warren Wilson, the recent Harvard Law School graduate vows “to get stuff done.”
Ratner left her home in the Washington, D.C. area to chart a course that would lead to study abroad trips in Tibet and Mexico before graduating in ’08 with a degree in anthropology. She also worked in the vegan Cowpie Café and served as an RA for a dorm full of freshmen men.
“Warren Wilson gave me a lot of curiosity about the world. The school gave me tremendous breadth and perspective and taught me how to work really hard,” she said. “I was able to come up with audacious ideas and make them happen.”
Ratner’s inventive spirit has served her well. After graduation she returned home, submitting a job description for a position that didn’t yet exist with Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a nonprofit that supports youth incarcerated as adults in Washington, D.C. Not only did her ingenuity land her the job, but it helped her quickly rise up the ranks to become the organization’s program director.
“The idea that that I would write my own job description came directly from what I learned at Warren Wilson about taking initiative,” she said.
More recently, Ratner brought her can-do attitude to Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude this year after completing 1,574 hours of pro bono work. She plans to serve as a law clerk in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for the next few years before working in criminal defense and criminal justice reform.
“At Free Minds, there were things that I wanted to do, and I was told I couldn’t do them without being a lawyer,” she said. “I’m very stubborn. I got tired of being told no.”
As her journey has unfolded, Ratner has encountered a lot of curiosity — as well as a few misconceptions — about her experience as an undergrad.
“I talk to a lot of people about Warren Wilson who tell me they wish they’d known about it and could’ve gone themselves,” she said. “Other times, I get the impression that people wonder how I got into Harvard Law after going there. I explain that it was a great advantage. I wouldn’t have gone down this path without Warren Wilson. I went to law school to get stuff done. And that attitude comes from my experience at Warren Wilson.”