Even before she received her UT juris doctor May 6, Maysaa Ouza had made legal history. Just before graduation, she was selected as a new U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps attorney — the first Muslim hijabi selected for this role.
Ouza’s family was influential in her decision to pursue a career with the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. Her parents immigrated to the United States, affording Ouza and her siblings opportunities and privileges they might not have received elsewhere. They strongly encouraged her to consider the military as a career.She also credits her UT College of Law professors and the Office of Professional Development with helping her learn about careers with the various JAG Corps and navigating the competitive application process. She believes that she was the first hijabi applicant to apply for the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps.
“Many people that look like me fear rejection, and thus will not apply for jobs like this,” Ouza said. “I want to break those barriers.”
The U.S. Air Force JAG Corps appealed to Ouza for several reasons. Public service and service to her community have long been important to her, and she will have the opportunity to serve her country as a military lawyer. Additionally, the JAG Corps provides its lawyers with opportunities to gain experience in numerous areas of law, including legal assistance, criminal law and military operations law — to name just a few. This exposure to multiple practice areas also was of interest to Ouza, as was the fact the Air Force is the youngest branch of the U.S. armed forces.
According to Ouza, there are similarities between life in the military and wearing the hijab — both require lives of structure and discipline.
“My hijab is an asset to the Air Force, not a liability,” she said. “The defining aspect of my character is my unwavering dedication to leading a life of structure and immense discipline. Capitalizing on these characteristics, it made intrinsic sense to serve our country.”
While attending the UT College of Law, Ouza was a leader in several student organizations.
“Maysaa was a quiet force during her time at the College of Law,” said Kate O’Connell, assistant dean for student affairs. “She served as president of the International Law Society, vice president of the Criminal Law Society and vice president of Delta Theta Phi. This past year alone, Maysaa was largely responsible for planning a number of meaningful, timely and topical events at the College of Law.”
Furthermore, Ouza was a Student Ambassador for the Admissions Office. She also made clear her desire to give back to her community, earning a UT College of Law Public Service Commendation and serving as a Law and Leadership Institute instructor.
Professor Benjamin Davis taught Ouza Contracts during her first year at the College of Law and interacted with her on a regular basis thereafter. “While she had such a strong sense of purpose, she was always personable with a warmth about her that made her stand out,” he said. “I am overjoyed she is becoming a JAG, and she is not just going to break down barriers, but thrive.”