Alumni profile: Cheryl Hacker '81

Cheryl Hacker '81
Principal assistant attorney general, education section
Ohio Attorney General's Office
Columbus, Ohio

Major: history

A foundation of participation

Cheryl HackerCheryl Hacker's career arc has been a logical progression, one that will continue in July when she starts her new job as general counsel for Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. And the seeds for what has become a long legal career were planted at Bluffton, she said.

"I felt students were encouraged to extend ourselves, to participate and take advantage of the broad experiences that were available," said Hacker, who participated in intramurals and other campus activities. "I think that helped shape me as a person."

Interested in law and public policy, the Lancaster County, Pa., native began thinking about law school while at Bluffton. She didn't know any Bluffton graduates who had taken that route, but Marlene Steiner (Suter), a Career Development Center employee, helped motivate her to apply. "She was really my source for encouragement," Hacker said.

Building a career.

Her first job after graduating from Bluffton was in voluntary service at the Mennonite Central Committee's Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C. "That was a really great opportunity to be working in the policy environment," recalled Hacker.

After two years with MCC, she spent another two years in a similar position with the National Council of Churches. Living in a group house, she was able to save money for law school, which came into sharper focus as she saw attorneys with different organizations working on policy issues in Washington.

Hacker chose Ohio Northern University, which she attended for one year while living back in Bluffton. She then transferred to Capital University and, during her second and third years of law school—before earning her degree in 1988—worked part time in the Ohio Public Defender's Office. Following that were jobs at the Ohio Department of Taxation and as counsel to the Ohio General Assembly's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. "I got to learn a lot about Ohio state government by being at the Statehouse," Hacker said.

Seeking new challenges.

Looking for exposure to litigation, she moved in 1992 to the state attorney general's office, where she worked in the charitable foundations—now charitable law—section and then, beginning in 1997, the education section.

In the education section, she has been an adviser and consultant to colleges and universities, particularly two-year institutions that don't have their own legal counsel. "Much of my time is spent in preventive law," said Hacker, who is particularly proud of training materials she has developed on areas such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The next step.

Her time in the attorney general's office has led to her new position at Shawnee State, whose purpose, she said, includes providing educational opportunities that can lead to jobs in southern Ohio.

The move is "a natural progression for me," she added. "My foundation in Bluffton, on Capitol Hill and in the state attorney general's office was part of that natural path, working on meaningful issues."