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Spitfire student

Indefatigable Ashton Botts juggles law, journalism, theater

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  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: March 26, 2012
Ashton Botts

Ashton Botts may never have a dull moment. While earning a master's degree in journalism and a law degree, the MU student performs in community musical theater productions, takes part in multiple student organizations, holds a part-time job and trains for a marathon.

How does a student combine study for a law degree with a journalism master’s degree and have a life? Ashton Botts has it figured out. The dual-degree student still finds time to sing roles in musical theater.

All the study, all the work, even the theater fun is preparation for her future. Botts thrives on packed schedules and says the only stage fright she experiences are sweaty palms and racing heartbeat in law class when a professor calls on her.

A mezzo soprano who enjoys “belting” songs onstage, Botts begins rehearsals in May for her role as Gemini in MU’s Summer Repertory Theatre production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. April 26-28 she has the female lead in the Independent Actors Theatre production of Talley’s Folly, a two-person romantic comedy playing at SilverBox Photography Studio.

The artistic performances are decompression for her: “You’ll go crazy if you just study and do nothing else.”

Botts selected Mizzou for her professional preparation because the dual degree will give her an edge in her career — legal analysis for a news network. Already she has a part-time clerkship with the firm of Brown, Willbrand, Simon, Powell and Lewis PC.

No procrastination

Botts ended a three-week run in February as lead character Percy Talbott in Columbia Entertainment Company’s The Spitfire Grill. In 2011, she sang supporting roles in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and in Dracula, the Musical, also for CEC.

Energy comes from doing what she enjoys, Botts says. Sure, law school is a lot of hard work. Students typically devote 40 to 60 hours a week to classes and study, reading volumes of material and working on comprehension for the one end-of-year exam, which is their only grade.

Adding a master’s degree in journalism doesn't only mean more study; it extends the three-year law course to four years. And because Botts selected broadcast journalism, she’ll take reporting assignments for MU’s radio station, KBIA; its NBC television affiliate, KOMU; or the political-reporting beat in Jefferson City.

“I’ve always been interested in law and thought journalism would make me more marketable. I only applied here. I wanted this program. I’ll have knowledge very few people in the country have,” she says.

Entertaining schedule

Ashton Botts

With a multitude of degree programs, hundreds of student-activity opportunities and countless options for weaving varied interests into a graduate education, Mizzou is a natural fit for the multifacedted Botts.

Botts knows what’s expected for law school and how to be efficient. “It’s a lot of reading about things I’m interested in,” she says.

But even with the academic demands, Botts’ days don’t seem normal when she’s not in rehearsal for a musical. In her other spare time, she performs with comocabaret, a troop of 14 singers who present vignette performances monthly at The Berlin Theatre in the Café Berlin.

When she’s on track, a normal day begins at 5:30 a.m. with a run at the Mizzou Student Recreation Center (she’s training to run a half-marathon) before class, study sessions and rehearsals. She totes food for three meals in an oversize backpack that holds a collection of books and legal pads.

On some days, she works as a School of Law Ambassador, meeting with prospective students to tell them about her experience. “I think I’m getting a stellar education. It’s good that they know what they’re in for,” she says.

The school selects well-rounded students to help with student recruitment. The ambassadors lead group and one-on-one tours, work on telethons, answer questions, serve on panels and run mock trials for students as young as elementary school.

Botts assists as well with the law school’s Historical and Theatrical Trial Society, which annually hosts an unscripted trial based on a historical or fictional event. This spring the group will put Bonnie Elizabeth Parker of Bonnie and Clyde on trial the first week in April.

“It’s a mix of theater and mock trial that incorporates judges and attorneys from the community,” says Botts, whose responsibility is costuming.

In other law-school activities, Botts is a member of Christian Legal Society, a national organization that meets weekly with guest speakers, and she was assistant director for client counseling of the school’s Board of Advocates, which sponsors speech competitions and mock trials for law students.

Growing up busy

As a kid, Botts sang at church in her hometown, Mt. Vernon, Mo. She took singing and piano lessons for six months because “my mother made me,” and that’s about it for music training, except for a brief exposure to band.

High school was where she learned to run from activity to activity — show choir, dance team and a bunch of organizations — and to develop leadership skills, which earned her a spot as a delegate to Girls State and then Girls Nation. She followed that by serving as a Girls State counselor for four years.

During her undergraduate years at William Jewell College, she studied abroad at Oxford University. So it seems Botts is a lot like the character she played in Spelling Bee, schoolgirl Marcy Park, who wants to experience everything.

For that role, Botts had to learn the song “I Speak Six Languages,” twirl a baton, juggle and do an unusual set of cartwheels.

It’s hard to imagine Botts ever as a slacker, so the question had to be raised. Has she ever slacked off?

Botts: “Well…  Absolutely…  I was supposed to…  I shouldn’t tell you this… There are times when… I’m going to incriminate myself…”

The words were hard to get out, but she finally did admit to not reading yesterday’s law assignments. Oh, and, she speaks only one language.

Read more in:  On CampusArts & CultureBeyond CampusBusiness, Law & PoliticsEducation

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Last updated: March 26, 2012