Five undergraduates to receive first bachelor’s degrees at USC Gould School of Law

Becca Speier • May 7, 2024
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In the fall of 2022, the launch of the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies marked a significant milestone for the USC Gould School of Law. Now, almost two years later, the program is preparing to confer its first five undergraduate degrees.

The degree program incorporates perspectives from multiple disciplines including psychology, sociology, history, philosophy and economics. It also covers a range of subject areas including private law, public law and international law. The goal of this program is to educate students on how law shapes modern culture and affects society, and how these forces, in turn, shape law.

This innovative program prepares students for industries that intersect with the law without having to be a practicing attorney. It enables students to be leaders in any industry they join. There are no industries that are not affected by the law, and being able to have a sense of how the law operates and its objectives gives students an invaluable framework.

Professor Robert Rasmussen, the faculty director of undergraduate education at Gould, reflected on the journey of the first students to complete this program.

“These students have learned an appreciation for how law works in our society – how law shapes society and how society shapes law,” Rasmussen said. “By earning the Legal Studies degree, these students have built the foundation to be leaders in our society.  Some will go on to law school; others will go on to careers in business, government and the public interest…I expect great things from them in the future.”

The Undergraduate ceremony will take place with the JD ceremony at the USC University Village Great Lawn.

Director of the program, Maddy Zamany, shares similar feelings with Professor Rasmussen. She emphasizes the honor this commencement is not only for the undergraduate’s academic endeavors, but for the stepping stone this is for the future.

“It’s a time of celebration — an honor to be part of these students’ successful academic journeys,” Zamany said. “We are proud to take part in providing them with a unique undergraduate legal education and to see them thrive as they move on to become our first alumni.”

Get to know the five members of the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies Class of 2024:

MJ Apfel, BS, Legal Studies, ’24

MJ Apfel is a SCion Scholar from Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Apfel chose to go to USC for an undergraduate degree as it is one of the only schools in the country that offers law courses in an undergraduate course plan. During his time at USC, Apfel has been an active part of The Trojan Review, an undergraduate law review led by Professor Jeff Rodgers. Apfel has earned hands-on experience writing his articles and learning about legal scholarship. Apfel recently wrote an article where he analyzes the intellectual property implications of AI-generated art, and he will continue to edit it next year along with other articles, as the incoming Editor-in-Chief of The Trojan Review. While pursuing his degree, Apfel took LAW 324, Sports Law with Professor Ben Meiselas. As a sports fan, he enjoyed learning how to apply legal concepts to current sports events. Outside of Apfel’s studies, his favorite experience at USC was watching the 2022 USC v. UCLA football game. After graduation, Apfel plans to go straight to law school to use his skills to potentially work within the sports industry.


Zahra Chaudhary, BS, Legal Studies, ’24

Zahra Chaudhary is a SCion Scholar from Irvine, California. As a legal studies major, Chaudhary recalls one of her favorite memories of petting dogs and cats at USC Gould during finals week. While at USC, Chaudhary has maintained a 4.0 cumulative GPA while balancing various extracurricular activities. She is involved in the Legal Studies Student Association and the Pakistani Student Association. As a legal studies major, Chaudhary was able to take LAW 205 — Introduction to Criminal Law. This was her favorite class throughout her undergraduate time at USC Gould. After graduation, Chaudhary is planning to attend law school this fall.


A woman wears a white dress and graduation sash
Madison Kumai, BS, Legal Studies, ’24

Madison Kumai is a first-generation student from San Diego, California. She is a Legal Studies major with a minor in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Kumai was an undergraduate student during the COVID-19 pandemic. She recalls her favorite memory was finally meeting her friends in person when she returned to USC’s campus. Since coming to USC, she has been involved in various extracurricular activities. Kumai is a member of the Society of Women in Law, the Nikkei Student Union and the Journal of Law and Society. Throughout her college courses, Kumai found her favorite class to be LAW-205, Introduction to Criminal Law, with Professor Peter Johnson. After graduation, Kumai plans to continue to a current internship working at a boutique law firm in downtown Los Angeles. Kumai will apply to law school in the Fall of 2024.


Allea Nojadera, BS, Legal Studies, ’24

Allea Nojadera is a first-generation student from Ventura, California. Nojadera has been selected to be the student speaker at the commencement ceremony. As a Legal Studies major at USC, Nojadera has participated in Pi Alpha Delta, USC’s only professional pre-law fraternity. Additionally, she has taken a variety of classes throughout the different disciplines offered through the law school. Nojadera recalls her favorite class was Sports Law with Professor Ben Meiselas. Outside of her academic study at USC Gould, Nojadera’s best memories at USC were attending football games with her friends and family. After graduation, she plans to continue working at the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office while pursuing her Master’s in Dispute Resolution at USC before applying to law school.


Yu Yang, BS, Legal Studies, ’24

Yu Yang (George) is a first-generation student from China. As a Legal Studies student, Yang has joined a variety of law-related clubs during his undergraduate career and thoroughly enjoyed each class he has taken while studying at the USC Gould. The opportunity to talk to law professors about his future plans and legal issues while an undergraduate is one of his favorite memories, he said. After graduation, Yang plans to study for his J.D. at Columbia Law School.

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