Celebrating Our Graduates; College of Arts and Humanities

‘Put yourself out there.’ This humanities double major prepares for law school with a new sense of self-confidence


Emma O’Bryon is finishing her time at Clemson University with a self-confidence she didn’t possess four years ago. She’ll also be leaving as a double major graduate in philosophy and women’s leadership, with an ultimate goal of practicing public interest law.

“I wanted to come here because the culture and people are so amazing,” O’Bryon says. “I was very meek and anxious about coming to college. I feel like I’ve blossomed as a person and gained a lot of confidence.”

She’s lived in a few pockets of the country, including Charlotte, Cleveland and southern Florida, and O’Bryon had no familial ties to Clemson. She readily tells others that the school — and people — “just kind of stole my heart.”

Making the leap from high school with a graduating class of 20 students to a university of more than 25,000 was daunting, and then the COVID-19 pandemic threw her first year of college for a loop.

Time passed, and O’Bryon changed majors from graphic communications to sociology. Former lecturer David Antonini’s Introduction to Ethics class that first year changed everything, however. The instructor and course showed the path to prepare for law school, so O’Bryon made the final academic change to philosophy. She added women’s leadership as a minor, which turned into a double major because of how seamlessly the two studies overlapped in coursework.

A college student leans against a brick wall.
Emma O’Bryon poses for a picture outside of her favorite building on campus, Hardin Hall.

That decision to double up academically is one O’Bryon will never regret.

“Being in the women’s leadership department has been my favorite experience at Clemson,” she says, “and the people are why. (Senior Lecturer) Sarah Cooper has gotten me so connected. She helped me get my internship. That’s a great aspect of the program; they make you do an internship. It helped me realize what I wanted to do.”

O’Bryon has also served as the pre-law liaison and an ambassador for the College of Arts and Humanities. One internship led to another. Her initial stop with the Upstate SC LGBT+ Chamber in Greenville connected the next professional development opportunity with South Carolinians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. O’Bryon also became one of the first Clemson students to study abroad in Florence, Italy, for a summer after the pandemic subsided in 2022.

Of course, O’Bryon knew no one else on the trip. All that did was draw her out of her comfort zone.

“I went by myself, and now one of my roommates from that trip is one of my closest friends,” she says. “The independence I gained helped me realize what I’m capable of.”

O’Bryon will enjoy her upcoming gap year, albeit one filled with preparation for the Law School Admission Test. She’s eager to learn how the law surrounding social justice initiatives affects “everything,” as O’Bryon puts it.

Her message to new Clemson students is easy to follow — get involved in everything and discover what you’re passionate about.

“Do things that put you out of your comfort zone,” O’Bryon says. “Put yourself out there.”

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