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Alumni Spotlight: Monica Niewiarowski

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Monica with (some) of her plants!

Name:  Monica

Nicknames:  None, really

Spouse/kids/pets: None

Class: 2009

Major: Political Science

Graduate school and degree: UVA Law

Hometown: Plano

Home teams: I'm a big fan of the Polish men's volleyball team, but otherwise don't follow sports. I make fantastic snacks for Superbowl parties, though!

Current location: Dallas, TX

Occupation: Commercial litigation and employment law attorney

Coolest part about your job: I get to work with IT departments in retail and hospitality companies to advise them on how to improve their websites to work more effectively with assistive technologies for people with disabilities! I'm learning a lot about the guidelines and best practices to make websites legible for text-to-speech software and other assistive devices, which is not at all what I expected to be doing after law school. As someone without a technical background, I love the challenge of not only figuring out the basics for my own understanding, but also being able to translate the requirements into plain English for other attorneys to help my client. 

Dream end-of-career job: I feel like I'm JUST now getting my bearings in my career - four years after graduating -  so it feels so strange to think about it coming to an end. There’s still so much more to learn! 

Future non-career ambitions: I’ve been wanting to learn how to play the accordion for years, but accordions are quite pricey (even used). I need to wait for the right moment. I’d also like to learn woodworking and upholstery! 

Outside talents: I love to bake! I recently learned how to make flan, and I’m pretty dang good at choux pastry confections like eclairs and cream puffs. My macarons have turned out horribly every time, but one day, I’ll figure them out. If you’ve managed to make macarons successfully, please share your secrets!

The most dangerous/exciting thing you've done: The above-referenced macaron adventures were exciting to start with, and yet horribly disappointing in the end. Even the buttercream was terrible because I accidentally used salted butter. A failure all around.

In a broader sense, I always forget how exciting it is to move to a new city where you don’t know anyone! Moving to Virginia for law school and then to Nebraska for my first job was thrilling because it was a great way for me to learn how hard and rewarding it is to build a community. You appreciate your new friends so much more!

One surprising thing Alumni wouldn't know about you: My newest interest is learning more about Western Slavic mythology and paganism. I'm a big nerd for niche history. If you have any book recommendations, send them my way! I’m also a nut about stationery. I have two bookcases full of journals, pens, stickers, washi tape, stamps, and all sorts of other paper goods. And of course, like every stereotypical millennial woman, I have a plant collection. 

Favorite part about UTD: I loved having all my friends so close. It’s much harder to coordinate movie nights, dinners, and events when we’re scattered everywhere.

Favorite McDermott memory: Running into fellow Scholars/Alumni outside of Dallas! Sometimes quite literally - I nearly ran over Lye-Ching Wong ('08) with my car as she was crossing a driveway in Charlottesville on my way to pick up food when we overlapped at UVA. A few years later, I happened to see my sister Emily’s classmate Aubrey Kinser ('12) outside of the restaurant where we were having my law school graduation lunch, and Emily dashed out to say hello. Last September, I was in DC for a wedding and staying with a friend from law school. I had brunch with my classmate Maija Wallace in the morning and accidentally ran into Dina Shahrohki ('07) in the afternoon! The Program introduced me to my best and dearest friends with whom I’ve made treasured memories, but bumping into friends in unexpected places is delightful in its own way. It helps remind me how far our network extends - even though we’re small (for now!), we’re mighty!

What you want to tell the McDermott Scholars: It's easy to think that if you do X, Y, Z correctly, you'll be rewarded with a wonderful, happy, and successful life. That once you’re done with a checklist, things will get easier. That's not how it goes. Life moves in cycles of success and failure - I’ve gone through at least three in the past four years. Ride the waves. Learn from them. Make friends who will lovingly see you through the journey, and be there for them when they're experiencing a turbulent ride. We're all going to be ok! 

I’m always happy to chat with Scholars about literally anything, so please reach out. I promise you’re never a bother! I choose to be involved in alumni activities and I love connecting with Scholars. I can be the adult that validates the choices your parents aren’t keen on, the objective reality check you’d like before a big decision, or just a sounding board on life stuff running the gamut from very serious to very frivolous. Frivolous topics of interest include: Marvel movies, conspiracy theories, memes, modern art/architecture, podcasts, and Twitter beefs (especially the dumb ones). Say hello: I’d love to meet you!


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