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Bomb explosion sets career change in motion for Canadian soldier, now a law student

Ryan Shudra balances law studies with role as master corporal with Calgary Highlanders
March 18, 2016
Ryan Shudra, now a University of Calgary student in the Faculty of Law, stands near the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, holding a photo of his great-grandfather, who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Photo courtesy Ryan Shudra

Ryan Shudra, now a University of Calgary student in the Faculty of Law, stands near the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, holding a photo of his great-grandfather, who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Photo courtesy Ryan Shudra

Ryan Shudra on patrol in Afghanistan in 2006.

With military members and veterans of the law school and Major-General Cathcart in 2015.

Ryan Shudra has experienced a lot in his life. After joining the Army Reserve at age 16, he fought forest fires in the Okanagan, distributed humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, and helped in the honorary burial near Vimy, France of the remains of a Canadian soldier who was killed in the First World War.

It wasn't until he survived a suicide bomber attack on his last patrol in Afghanistan that life took him in a new direction, leading him to the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary.

He landed in somewhat familiar territory with the career change. With a father who was an RCMP officer, Shudra was exposed to the criminal justice system from a young age. After he was injured in the bomb attack, he began his undergraduate studies in psychology, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He began to seriously consider law school as the next step in his life after he worked for a year and a half at a clinic for veterans and RCMP members suffering from PTSD.

Studying law logical next step

“Practising law is a logical next step for those in the military,” says Shudra, now serving as master corporal with the Calgary Highlander Regiment. “Given the high stress and team-focused environment that exists in the military, law seems to require many similar skill sets, just applying them in a different way.

"Soldiers are taught how to plan for a mission and to anticipate the possible obstacles that may arise. I have found this approach has been effective when applied to law school problems and moots, in that you are able to recognize the strengths and weakness of your position and plan accordingly,” he says.

Shudra points out law school also requires a mental toughness that those who have served in the military possess as a result of the demanding situations in training or overseas deployments. 

Embracing life as a student

Now in his second year in the Faculty of Law, Shudra has volunteered with Pro Bono Students Canada and Student Legal Assistance, which he says has helped ground his legal studies and allowed him to give back to the community. He also values the diverse backgrounds of his classmates, including other Afghanistan veterans, and the strong sense of collegiality that exists at the law school.

Shudra will spend this summer working for the Crown prosecutor's office in Red Deer, and he has secured a clerkship with the Alberta Provincial Court in Calgary in 2017. He continues in his role of master corporal, holding responsibility for administrative matters and training for his section.