Briana McDaniel’s long days of law school classes on Zoom and late nights of studying for the bar exam paid off when she was commissioned into the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps as a lieutenant junior grade.
In March, she departs for the military base in Yokosuka, Japan, where she will live for at least two years. But first, she will head to officer development school in Newport, Rhode Island, where she will return for Naval Justice School this summer.
In the JAG, she will aid service members who need legal counsel. Her responsibilities will grow to include reviewing naval maneuvers and missions to make sure they do not violate international laws or treaties.
Through McDaniel’s experiences at PBA, such as interning in the domestic violence unit of the State Attorney’s Office, serving refugees in Germany on her first international trip with CM Global and volunteering as leader in MOSAIC, she discerned that she wanted to help marginalized people in practical ways.
Her interest shifted from nonprofit work to law when she encountered refugees who were unable to provide for their basic needs because they were stuck in the legal system awaiting permanent refugee status. Her legal appetite grew when she interned with the State Attorney’s Office her junior and senior years and participated in heartbreaking phone calls with domestic violence survivors and their families.
At PBA, McDaniel also helped organize Women’s Night of Worship once per month, which taught her to “be able to better communicate,” and work in a team — a necessity for the military, she said.
“PBA really helped me discover who I am,” McDaniel said. “It fundamentally changed the way I interact with people and the way I view life.”
McDaniel, an Oviedo, Florida, native, graduated from PBA with a degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish in May 2018. Her courses in PBA’s Frederick M. Supper Honors Program, which requires extensive reading, writing and Socratic discussions, prepared her for Pepperdine University’s Caruso School of Law.
Throughout law school, McDaniel built on her PBA experiences working with people who need an extra hand. In Jakarta, Indonesia, she interned with a small nonprofit called Advocates International, working alongside Pepperdine professors to counsel refugees and human trafficking survivors. She also worked in Pepperdine’s Restoration & Justice Clinic, conducting interviews with survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking and drafting legal petitions in preparation for litigation in the Los Angeles and Orange County court systems.
McDaniel spent a semester in London and Washington, respectively. In Washington, she interned for the U.S. Attorney’s Office by day while taking three law classes by night. At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she worked with FBI agents to investigate the violence at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6. The chaos unfolded about a mile from where she was living, she said.
“It felt super pertinent,” McDaniel said. “I was living it and working it.”
McDaniel came to Palm Beach Atlantic as a dual enrollment student from The Master’s Academy, a private Christian school in Central Florida. The familiarity of PBA, small class sizes, personal attention and integration of Christian faith in learning made the university an easy sell for McDaniel and her family.