Ruda joined the Knudson School of Law after graduating Summa Cum Laude from Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, in 2021 with an undergraduate degree in political science and history. She is currently enrolled in USD’s concurrent history and law program and is set to graduate with both her Master of Arts in history and her Juris Doctor in May.

In the law school, Ruda is involved in several student organizations, including the Trial Advocacy team and Criminal Law Society. She also serves as the president of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board and is the student liaison for the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association.

“ADR is the best board, that’s not an exaggeration,” said Ruda. “Last year, my teammate Pierce Richardson and I won the Alternative Dispute Resolution Regional ABA Negotiation Competition and represented USD Law at the national competition.”

Ruda is also committed to giving back to her community. She held a practicum with the Great North Innocence Project, a nonprofit out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, that works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. As part of this work, Ruda completed extensive legal research.

“This work has helped me understand the immense human cost of mistakes and oversights that happen every day in the justice system,” she said. “The work the Great North Innocence Project aligns with my beliefs on the law and punishment.”

For the past five years, Ruda has worked as a mental health aid at the Human Services Center (HSC), a state-run psychiatric hospital in Yankton, South Dakota. “Working at the HSC helped me develop a sense of empathy that I couldn’t have gained in a classroom or anywhere else," said Ruda.

We asked the committed advocate and future law alumna about her experience at the state’s only law school and what the future holds for her, and this is what she had to say.

What are you looking forward to the most upon graduation?

I am looking forward to serving my community.

What have you enjoyed most about law school?

The best part about law school is – beyond a shadow of a doubt – the people.  

Can you tell us about your experience in the concurrent degree program?

It's really hard, but worth it. Taking on an additional class load and writing a thesis is not easy, but it gives me the ability to exercise my intellectual muscle outside of law. I love history, and studying history gives me an academic outlet outside of law school.

To my core, I’m an advocate. It felt natural to pursue law but also to use history to do that.

Who models excellence, service and leadership for you?

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe showed up for on-campus interviews during my first year, and I completed a summer internship there between my first and second years. The mentorship I’ve gotten through the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is immeasurably valuable. I was able to witness excellence, service and leadership in practice instead of just in law school. During my internship, I was able to not only do work that affected the big picture – work that is changing the face of South Dakota – but also the daily stuff that has to happen to reach those achievements.

What or who makes a good lawyer?

Empathetic advocacy. You’re not just fighting for your client and cause but fighting as if you were the client and it is your own cause. The truest function of a lawyer is to be a helping hand.

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