May 17, 2016

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Erinika Taliaferro Earns American Association of University Women Award at VSU

Pictured, from left to right, are Erinika Taliaferro and Dr. Brian Gerber, interim provost and vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs.

VALDOSTA — Erinika R. Taliaferro is a recipient of Valdosta State University’s 2016 American Association of University Women Award.

To be considered for the American Association of University Women Award Taliaferro had to maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or better and demonstrate a talent for intellectual growth and leadership through her involvement in clubs, organizations, projects, and/or work service during her university years. She was recognized during VSU’s annual Academic Honors and Awards Dinner.

Taliaferro graduated from VSU on May 7 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. During her four years at the university, she earned the Melvene D. Hardee Scholarship and the Forensics (Speech and Debate) Scholarship; was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges; served as a member of the national champion Forensics (Speech and Debate) Team, the college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Emory Bass Squadron of Arnold Air Society, Pi Sigma Alpha: The National Political Science Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta: National Honor Society for First-Year Students, and Golden Key International Honour Society; and worked as a student assistant for Campus Recreation.   

Taliaferro joined VSU’s Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as a freshman, working her way up the ranks to cadet colonel and cadet wing commander for the university’s Detachment 172.   

“My family has served in every branch of the military except the United States Coast Guard,” she said. “My grandparents alone have a combined 63 years of service. My grandparents have had a huge impact on my life, and they are my motivation to serve. I will be the first in my generation to enter the military.” 

Taliaferro will spend three months interning with the United States Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., this summer. The 22-year-old looks forward to helping the office realize its mission to “deliver professional, candid, independent counsel and full spectrum legal capabilities to command and the warfighter.”

Taliaferro will work under attorney supervision in a variety of military justice and military law practice areas within the JAG Corps. She will have an opportunity to help prepare criminal and civil cases by conducting legal research and investigations; writing briefs and opinions; interviewing witnesses; supporting attorneys working in the areas of federal tort claims, government procurement law, employment law, international law, environmental law, and operational law; assisting attorneys who counsel and represent active-duty airmen, retirees, and their family members in such personal legal matters as family law, estate planning, landlord-tenant law, tax law, bankruptcy law, immigration and naturalization law, and military administrative law; and much more. 

“I am most excited about the experience I will gain, the people I will meet, and the things I will get to see,” she said. “I have always wanted to study law, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to … hone in on my leadership abilities.” 

Following the completion of her internship with the Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate General at the Pentagon, Taliaferro will continue her education through the Air Force’s Educational Delay Law Program, which will allow her three years to delay entry into active duty to study law. She will attend Michigan State University College of Law in East Lansing in the fall.

Only the best qualified officers commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) are selected for the Educational Delay Law Program. Taliaferro was selected based on her academic performance, extracurricular activities, work experience, community service, military record, and recommendations. Upon earning her Juris Doctor, she will take the bar exam and await her next assignment.

Taliaferro’s goal is to eventually earn a spot in the Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate General. If she makes it, she will be the first JAG in her family.

“I want to be able to serve, protect, and defend my country while doing something I am passionate about,” she explained. “I want to be a JAG because this career provides me with a chance to make a difference for my country and my service members. It provides me an opportunity to make a difference because I am not only advocating for my service members but I am also advocating and fighting for my country’s beliefs and rights.” 

Taliaferro is a resident of McDonough, Georgia.

On the Web:

Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities. 

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals: 

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Visit to learn more.