Alumni Spotlight: City Solicitor reflects on college years at UMass Lowell

Brigid Archibald
Connector Editor 

“Of the three different higher education institutions I went to, I really retain a special fondness for Lowell,” said Lowell City Solicitor Christine O’Connor. O’Connor attended the University of Lowell and graduated in 1988, a few short years before the school would be taken in as part of the UMass system in 1991, becoming UMass Lowell.

At the University of Lowell O’Connor double majored in English and history and played basketball for the university for her first two years. After graduating, she spent three years at Boston University as a graduate student studying American Studies and then two years at Suffolk Law.

O’Connor has worked for the city of Lowell for 20 years, working her way up the ranks from assistant city solicitor, to first assistant solicitor and then to city solicitor where she has worked with a team of eight attorneys for almost the last 10 years.

“What it really means is that myself and a lot of the other lawyers here serve as in-house counsel to the city. As in-house counsel, we represent the city in all matters of litigation,” said O’Connor. Such litigation includes things like zoning violations, contract disputes and discrimination lawsuits, among other things. “We also provide more traditional in house services, such as advising on the creation of policy, giving legal opinions on what would be advisable to do and not to do, drafting up ordinances that help govern the city, giving advice to counsel commissions, the school departments and the like.”

O’Connor was born and raised in Lowell and chose to attend the University of Lowell for the affordable tuition. In her time at the university, she was a commuter and had planed after her first two years to transfer schools, but after careful consideration and consulting an older cousin, she decided not to. “I never really regretted that decision at all,” said O’Connor. “I stayed because I really liked it there.”

O’Connor said she remembers the program being rigorous while maintaining a positive learning environment. O’Connor said she felt well prepared for the demands placed on her in graduate school.

“It was a place where your professors were very assessable, they were very engaged, involved and interested in what you were doing,” said O’Connor. “As far as the department and those you went to classes and school with, they were all much more supportive than competitive environments.”

O’Connor said that it is various moments in class and the people she had in her classes that stick out the most, as well as the ideas she found herself being introduced to. She said she often thinks back to a lesson taught by a professor in a course on Geoffrey Chaucer.

“He was talking about how as we advance, we sometimes get to a point where we harm our own existence,” said O’Connor “I understand it better than I can repeat it, but I see that in lots of ways.” She points to global warming as a big-picture example.

O’Connor applied for law school as she was finishing graduate school because it seemed like a practical career.

“There’s a balance between doing things that are practical and doing things you like,” said O’Connor.

She advised students that were pursuing fields because they see the practicality to find ways to incorporate the things, they are passionate about into their career.

“If you are lucky enough to find an area of study that you really feel connected to then by all means that’s really the time to pursue it and try to look really hard to find something that even if it is not directly related to the subject matters or areas of study that you really enjoy find some sort of work that at least allows you to connect back to that,” said O’Connor. She pointed to how law school there is a lot of reading, writing, and analyzing language, and analytical thinking that one would use when reading mil and the floss.

Looking at campus today, O’Connor says she sees the new buildings and the renovations. However, that is not what stands out most to her.

“I don’t really see change per se, but when I look at It, I mainly just see that that’s my university,” said O’Connor.

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