Michael Rose, B.A. Political Science ’09, will receive the 2016 Alumni Emerging Leader award at Green & Gold Gala on Oct. 1.
Michael Rose took the world-ranked Seawolf Debate program one step further when he helped win a national championship for UAA in 2005. He distinguished himself again when he rocket-started his Alaska law career with a $51.3 million jury verdict. But, on the quieter side, what distinguishes Michael isn’t that he has kicked off his career with intensity and accomplished so much so far, it’s that he did so, and continues to do so, with a sincere desire to train and mentor others.
The national champ trophy from Seawolf Debate now sits on his desk, next to a Scales of Justice statue and a bust of Darth Vader.
But soon he’ll have one more accolade to display. Michael accepts the 2016 Alumni of Distinction Emerging Leader award at Green & Gold Gala on Oct. 1. On one hand, the award recognizes a recent graduate achieving great things in his or her community. But, for Michael, there’s more to it than that. He’s accepting the recognition as a local leader, too.
“The most important academic decision”
Michael started debating while at Service High, when a teacher overheard him arguing with a friend in the library and encouraged them to join the school’s debate team (that friend, it turns out, also became a lawyer). At high school debate competitions, he met UAA students—including 2002 national champions Ben Garcia, B.S. ’03 and Chris Richter, B.B.A. ’03—who served as judges. The opportunity to continue debating, and stay local and join a team alongside national champions sealed the deal. “Choosing UAA was an easy choice for me,” he said.
In his first years, Michael would frequently spend more than 40 hours each week researching, writing and practicing. His aggressive dedication paid off with individual and team awards across the United States and the world. That hard work, confidence, critical thinking and poise also carried him into life after graduation. “Debate is the most important academic decision I made in my life.”
Thanks to encouragement from his wife (and fellow Seawolf Debater), Nikki Rose, B.A. ’09, Michael enrolled at Seattle University School of Law, earning a Juris Doctorate in 2012. In law school, Michael made the Dean’s List and earned Seattle U’s Alaska Law Scholarship each year. He likewise continued to succeed competitively, winning the school’s mock trial trophy his second year. His professors hired him as a teaching assistant, where he ran weekly workshops and tutored students.
After graduating cum laude, Michael went on to pass the Alaska bar examination on his first attempt. Just days into his first job, he was handed a case, RDS v. Trimble Navigation, which he took to a jury verdict of $51.3 million dollars for his client, a small Alaska company. It was an impressive jumpstart, but Michael handles each case with the same care and attention. His first year as an attorney, a client wrote a letter thanking Michael for reuniting him with his son. Michael’s own son had just been born and he hung the letter on his office wall to remind himself why he worked the long hours, why he sacrificed sleep and why he wanted to be a lawyer.
Building a community
Outside the courtroom, Michael also makes an impact in Alaska’s law community. He oversaw the creation of Anchorage’s first Christian Legal Society, a national networking group. He’s likewise involved with the Young Lawyers section of the Anchorage Bar Association. He judges high school mock trials statewide, using the same skills he has honed as an attorney and debater.
An important outreach effort for him is mentorship. One of his most visible and significant outlets is his continued involvement with Seawolf Debate; he’s a regular fixture at Tuesday night practices, a participant in the team’s annual retreat and a constant coaching presence.
“This team has had this legacy of success. I added significantly to that legacy, and [now] can watch subsequent generations hopefully do better,” he said.
To support the team, he helped found a Friends of Seawolf Debate group, composed of coaches, supporters and—importantly—other alumni of the program. As the group’s first president, he’s established a vision for the future mentorship and support of the team. Before the team left for nationals this spring, he wrote a personal letter to each team member challenging and encouraging them.
Aside from coaching, he also provides guidance and advice on steps after college. And though he’s only four years into his professional career, he’s looking forward to sharing his work experience with the next set of young lawyers starting out in Alaska.
“I’ve met some really great attorneys who’ve mentored me on some directions I want to go in my career,” he said. It’s only fitting that he extends that helping hand next.
“Mentorship is something that’s so, so important in life,” Michael noted. “You have to have a mentor or you end up being lost. For me, leadership is a big part of that.”
As someone who likes to help others succeed, he can appreciate his own achievements, but considers it much more enjoyable to bring others along for the ride. That’s been the case since his college days; on Seawolf Debate, he paired with 10 different debate partners and reached elimination rounds with every single one of them.
“Good leadership is all about being selfless, and that’s something that I’ve grown into knowing,” he said. “Leadership has always been in the back of my mind as to who I am.”
The recognition as an emerging leader, he says, is confirmation that he’s on the right path.
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement