Getting involved

Passion for law drives nontraditional student leader at Wright State

A passion for the law and politics inspires Stephanie Buettner, a political science major, to become a student leader at Wright State.

Stephanie Buettner was all set to enroll in Wright State University’s nursing program when she graduated from Shawnee High School in Lima, but, as the saying goes, life happened.

More than 10 years later, Buettner ended up at Wright State as a political science major, with minors in crime and justice studies and legal studies.

While she started her academic career later than planned, she has dived right in to the Wright State community as the president of the Student Government Association, an intern with Student Legal Services and president of her sorority.

Oh, yeah, and doing a little something with the total solar eclipse on April 8.

Buettner does all this and more while having Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects connective tissue that leads to the joints easily dislocating.

Which leads to why Buettner wanted to come to Wright State. After graduating high school, she planned to enroll at Wright State because of its strong reputation as a disability-friendly campus.

“But in those 10 years, I was in and out of hospitals and seeing doctors,” she said. “I was trying to get help. I had seizures, then I was diagnosed with epilepsy.”

As she focused on her health, she also reflected on her life.

“During those years I got passionate about law and politics,” Buettner said.

She said the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a model for her because of the justice’s stands on social justice and women’s rights.

“Once I found that passion,” Buettner said, “I decided I’d push through and enroll. I’m thankful for that period, which allowed me to find out what I’m passionate about.”

She said she felt a call to ensure that people are treated equally “no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or disability.”

That drive led her to get involved in law at a local level. She landed an internship at the municipal court in Oakwood over the summer. This academic year, she is interning with Wright State’s Student Legal Services.

Buettner takes information from clients and sets them up in the system, draws up court papers and handles other administrative work. She has seen instances of traffic cases, criminal cases, divorces, landlord-tenant issues and those seeking legal advice.

“It’s pretty surprising at how wide a range of legal areas they service,” she said.

“I really enjoy the law, and I really enjoy being part of leadership on campus,” she said.

To that end, last academic year she served as the policy administrator on the Student Government Association and this year was elected Student Government president. Her term ends at the end of the Spring Semester. She is also president of Alpha Omicron Pi.

“Any chance where I can get a leadership role, I take that on,” she said. “I’m really involved with Greek life. It’s a home away from home here.”

Her involvement also extends to a once-in-a-lifetime event: the April 8 total solar eclipse. She is treasurer of the Wright State Astronomical Collaboration, which is helping to arrange activities for students, faculty and staff to experience the eclipse. She is helping recruit volunteers for the event and coordinate activities with Student Government.

Buettner is on track to graduate in spring 2025. Then she plans to go to law school in Ohio or southeast Michigan.

“Stephanie is a dedicated, driven, intelligent and thoughtful student, who consistently has achieved excellence in her academic work and demonstrated the ability to apply the lessons from this work to practical and impactful settings outside the classroom,” said John Feldmeier, Ph.D., professor of political science.

“As Wright State’s student body president, Stephanie has been required to navigate many of the challenging circumstances that involve campus security and students’ constitutional rights, including the freedom of speech,” he said. “Stephanie has approached these situations with considerable care, reflection, and a solid application of fundamental principles of constitutional law. She really has been impressive in this role.”

Feldmeier added that Buettner is a remarkable campus leader. “She appreciates that Wright State is an academy of higher education, where the values of collaboration, shared governance, kindness, and inclusive action are essential to building a positive and effective culture,” he said.

Buettner is thankful for being at Wright State. “I’ve grown into my own at Wright State,” she said. “I came here shy and didn’t feel confident. I’ve grown into having huge confidence that I didn’t have before. I gained a lot of leadership experience.”

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