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THE TERMS might differ—equal opportunity, equal access, anti-discrimination—but attorney Bridget Cullen Mandikos (PhD ’01, MA ’01, JD ’94 & BA ’91) is intimately familiar with the process of making law and its benefits accessible. She taught equal opportunity (EO) law in her adopted home of Queensland, Australia; practiced EO law in the U.S. and Australia; and now sits on the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, a gateway through which the community accesses justice via civil case hearings. As the mother of three children, one of whom is severely intellectually impaired and autistic, she also knows well the issues that can surround a family’s access to specialized support and education.
What’s your impression of the university today?
I’ve always loved the “Ye Olde English” Oxford feel of the South Campus, and I feel only envy when I look at the housing options now available to students on the sprawling North Campus. I also am aware that the UB law faculty is dynamic, housing many top legal scholars, and with a bent toward social justice issues (of which I thoroughly approve).Bridget Cullen Mandikos
Mandikos’ ability to explain complex subjects ideally complements her particular career path. “I enjoy getting students to look carefully at how the law operates, stressing that life is not fair and the law can affect different groups in ways that aren’t always equitable,” she says. As well, people in front of her at the tribunal “are often not represented, and I try to explain the law so that, even if they don’t like the outcome, they understand the process.”
—Grace Lazzara with photo by Tim Page
Favorite UB class or professor?
I adored the entire UB geography department—Professors Smith, McConnell, Woldenberg and Fotheringham, and the late Professor MacPherson—but must give a special mention to the late Charles Ebert and his oceanography subject. I worked as his teaching assistant in graduate school and was in charge of his slide projector. Oceanography was not the most useful subject I took but [it] was taught with such zeal that not enjoying it would have been unthinkable.
How did UB influence your life and career?
There are two tangible skills I gained at UB: The first is an appreciation of appropriate research methodology. I can read academic research and separate the wheat from the chaff. The second is attributable to the fact the UB Law School is a “critical legal studies” faculty: I learned to not just accept the law as it was drafted (often badly), but to ask the “why” questions about whether the law was achieving social justice.
When was the last time you visited UB?
In the summer of 2009. I drove my children through all the campuses, and we raided both the North Campus bookstore and medical/dental bookstore for UB paraphernalia to bring home to Australia.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My three children: Nicholas (10), Daniel (7) and Meghan (4). Daniel is severely intellectually impaired and autistic. Like all young children, they have at times behaved in ways that have caused me considerable public embarrassment. That said, living with a disabled sibling is a hard slog for any kid. I am very proud that Nicholas and Meghan are kind children, who understand that life is not perfect, compassion for others is a gift and that all people deserve love. Professionally, my appointment to Queensland’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal has been a privilege.
Would you still select the same major if you had to do it all over again?
Probably, because I am happy with my career. There are days, however, after a particularly difficult mediation over a trivial matter, that I wish I had become a vet.
Do you keep in touch with UB friends today?
Yes. My friend Ursula (Eddy, BS ’00 & BS ’94) remains my closest girlfriend, despite the ocean between us. She’s sort of friend where you always pick up the phone and have a conversation after not speaking for ages, and not feel that you have lost your “context.” There is an understanding between some people that time and distance cannot erase.
What advice do you have for current UB students? “If I knew then what I know now…”
I know that I wasn’t good at this in my early 20s, but I have taken a leaf out of my father’s book later in life and tried to hone this skill: “If you say you are going to do it, do it.” I try to be reliable.
What do you miss most about your time as a student?
Sleeping in on weekdays, and being able to stay awake past 11 p.m.
Any distinct memories about Buffalo winters?
Other than the winter in Law School when my furnace died, and my sister and I had no money, and our father came to our rescue (again), I could probably write a novel in the hours I spent on the 33 West and East stuck in traffic. And I recall the glee of receiving an electric car starter for Christmas!
David Dorsey is a Rochester-based freelance writer whose credits include Esquire and Fast Company (Dilek Cindoglu, Dexter Johnson, Atif Zafar); Grace Lazzara is a Buffalo-based writer and public relations strategist (Andra Ackerman, Gwen Howard, Bridget Cullen Mandikos); Mara McGinnis, BA ’97, is executive director of communications at Pratt Institute and a New York City-based freelance writer (Randy Asher, Steve Marchese, Rodney Sharman).