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Advocating for Positive Change in Cleveland

Stephanie Pope

Stephanie Pope, a graduate of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, is an advocate for change in Cleveland. A lifelong resident of the Collinwood neighborhood, she knows the challenges inner-city communities face firsthand and is heavily involved in civic engagement to find productive solutions. She serves as Vice Chair for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, on the executive committee of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and on the board of several local nonprofits including the Northeast Shores Development Corporation.

Pope, who was named one of Crain’s Cleveland’s 40 Under 40 in 2016, has also founded The Destiny Project, a youth empowerment and leadership program for girls, in partnership with the Salvation Army in Collinwood. The program provides programming for young women to inspire them to live a life of purpose.

Pope’s drive to induce positive change also extends to her primary profession. She has worked as a probation officer with the City of Cleveland for 17 years. A few years ago, she was looking to expand her career opportunities, but felt she needed an advanced degree to do so. After researching the possibilities, Pope decided that enrolling in the Master of Legal Studies program at C|M|LAW was the avenue that best fit her goal to work in a leadership capacity.

"When someone asked what I would do with a Master of Legal Studies degree, I always told them I wanted to be in an administrative role with the City of Cleveland or a similar public entity," said Pope.

While managing the load of her full-time position, nonprofit commitments and school work was challenging, having a strong support system was critical for getting her through busy periods.

“It was a lot of work but it was manageable when considering the long-term benefit of receiving the degree,” said Pope. “I always communicated to my support system and groups what my goals were and what I needed to achieve them and they worked alongside me every step of the way.”

Just weeks after graduating this May, Pope found the exact type of position she had in mind. She received a promotion to director of pretrial services with the Cleveland Municipal Court, a newly created department that will allow judges to monitor and order treatment for suspects who have been released rather than jailed while awaiting trial.

She already sees applications of her legal education in her new position, particularly from the First Amendment course she took. Pope also credits her MLS degree as a contributing factor in having the credentials needed to earn her new position.

"My degree was taken into consideration during the hiring process and I believe the employers were very impressed."