Sarah Smith-Raschen

June 19, 2019 10:06 AM

Spouse name and family information: Michael Raschen; children: Elias Raschen, 8; Ezekiel Raschen, 6; and Ezra Raschen, 3

Major/minor while at Millikin: Political science/pre-law

Other degrees, including awarding institutions: Master’s in public policy – Regent University; Juris Doctorate – Regent University

Current employer and job title: Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit, State of Illinois; Colonel, United States Army (Illinois Army National Guard)

Why did you choose to attend Millikin?
I loved that MU was a small school that still offered a university experience. It is only about an hour and a half from my hometown, which made it easy to travel back monthly for my military obligations. I fell in love with the political science faculty during my visit and I just knew this was the right fit for me. Millikin was the first college I visited and it ended up being the only one I needed to visit.

What activities did you participate in while a student at Millikin?
I am a class representative for Class of ’98. I was a Millicamp counselor for three years and participated in numerous activities within the poli-sci department. I was also a member of the Tri-Delta sorority for two years.

What are some of your accomplishments since graduating from Millikin?
I am most proud of my husband (a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army) and the three little boys we are raising. Since graduation, I have had so many unbelievable experiences, mostly through my military service. Shortly after obtaining my master's and law degrees, I was mobilized in support of Hurricane Katrina and witnessed some of the worst devastation this country has seen from a natural disaster. I then deployed to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping operation and experienced the excitement of a country declaring its independence. Immediately thereafter I spent 13 months in Afghanistan. I don’t think anyone will ever understand the full impact of the evil of the Taliban and the fear and oppression levied on the Afghan people unless they witnessed it first-hand. I was selected to mentor and train the only Afghan female general in the Afghan National Army and had the opportunity to participate in dozens of foot and mounted patrols and humanitarian assistance missions to villages terrorized by the Taliban. For my service during that deployment, I was honored to be awarded the Bronze Star. Currently, I am the highest-ranking judge advocate general in the Illinois Army National Guard and I am halfway through the program to obtain my master’s in strategic studies from the United States Army War College. In 2015, I was appointed an associate judge in the Third Judicial Circuit and in November of 2018, I was elected by the citizens of Madison and Bond County, Ill., to serve as one of their circuit judges.  

Apart from supporting the Big Blue, what is your favorite pastime?
I love spending time with my family and doing things for our community. I truly believe the greatest experiences are times spent being a part of something bigger than yourself. My husband and I are trying to teach our sons the importance of being active and taking part in service and charitable organizations, whether it be involvement with veterans, first responders, the Alton Boys & Girls Club, Refuge (a charitable organization that provides free counseling services to children who have experienced trauma, abuse and/or violence) or Sheds for the Homeless (an organization that provides shelter and food for the homeless). I’m also passionate about 100 Women Who Care in the 618, a collective giving organization where hundreds of women in the local area come together four times a year to donate $100 to one local charitable organization.

What Millikin professor or staff member made the greatest impact on you, and why?
I truthfully loved all of the instructors I had at MU, but as far as greatest impact, without a doubt it would be Dr. Michelle Deardorff. Dr. Deardorff knows constitutional law better than most of my law school professors. But it wasn't her vast knowledge that made the impact – it was taking the time to pull me aside my freshman year when I was placed on academic probation after my first semester. In a firm but caring way, she told me that she saw potential in me, but that I needed to get my act together or I would never get into any law school nor achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer. I knew right then that something needed to change. Honestly, without her sitting me down and having that tough conversation, I am not sure where I would be today. I am forever grateful for the impact she had on my life.

What is your most memorable Millikin experience?
This is easy – Millicamp! As an incoming freshman, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to meet and get to know my fellow classmates. It was such an awesome experience that I knew I had to try and become a Millicamp counselor. Little did I know that I would have even more fun in that role. I made such wonderful friends from different backgrounds, majors and sororities/fraternities that I would have probably never gotten to know otherwise.

What is one concept you learned at Millikin that you use regularly?
Hard work can overcome any deficiency. I learned that after being on academic probation my first semester. But I worked hard to overcome that horrible GPA and after graduation, I had the option of attending a half-dozen different law schools. No matter what obstacle is in front of you, whatever deficiency you think you have, with determination, drive, the willingness to put in long hours, sweat, and sacrifice, you can accomplish ANYTHING!!

What advice would you give to current MU students about preparing for life after graduation?
Stay connected! Not only with the University and the Alumni Association, but also with the friends you have made during your time there. One of my biggest regrets is not keeping in touch with the wonderful friends I found, friendships that were truly once in a lifetime. Life after college will get busy – post-graduate school, jobs, starting a family – but don't ever lose touch with the people who you spent probably some of the best times of your life with!