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Nick Heimbach ’09 knows exactly where he wants to go. When he graduates with his J.D. from Harvard Law School next year, he wants to become a public defender. Heimbach views the work of public defenders as a sort of higher calling within his field.
“The practice of law is such a dynamic field, such an interesting mix of art and science. Public defense work lies at the very heart of the criminal justice system,” he says. “Public defenders remind me that there are those who have not given up on justice, who hold true to the idea that every person in this country is entitled to zealous and skillful representation.”
If it seems like Heimbach is driven, it’s because he is and always has been. For example, he took political science and sociology classes at Moravian while still in high school. He says his decision to attend Moravian was made easy by the intelligence of the professors and the depth of the conversation in those classes
Once he was on campus, his most difficult and ultimately rewarding test was his Honors thesis. The political science and sociology double major found a mentor in sociology professor Bettie Smolansky, who gave him the freedom to explore his ideas and pour his emotion into his project, rather than presenting a dry academic discourse. He recalls her as his “go-to person on campus,” the one who encouraged him to keep going when things got hard.
“Dr. Smolansky taught me to be passionate about research. She made it okay to get angry and to let my anger and passion show in my thesis,” says Heimbach. “Every student should have at least one class with a professor who is as committed, passionate and witty as Bettie Smolansky.”
He recalls a number of other amazing professors in the political science and sociology departments who shared her commitment and passion, such as Khristina Haddad, Gary Olson and Daniel Jasper, all of whom give their time and passion to students’ projects, like his.
“Working so hard on my thesis, putting so much of my time, energy, and self into it, was the ultimate academic experience, but residence life and acting as a student Trustee—a unique opportunity to get involved in the governance of the school—were also significant and meaningful parts of my time at Moravian,” he adds.
"The sense of accomplishment of receiving honors from my panel was unbelievable."