Instead of focusing on making his voice heard, Max Shapiro already aspires to something loftier: to be the voice for those that go unheard. Shapiro is in his second year of St. Thomas’ dual degree JD/MBA program, a joint venture between the School of Law and Opus College of Business that will ultimately supply him with degrees in both law and business.

While working toward his bachelor’s degree in leadership and management at St. Thomas, Shapiro felt torn between law school and business school. An information session he attended his junior year for the School of Law’s newly-launched Tommie Law Early Admission Program, an opportunity that exempts students from taking the LSAT and compresses a would-be five years of study into four, ended up winning him over. He later decided to add the MBA to make room for more opportunity. Shapiro has already completed the exclusively-law first year of the program and is working through the exclusively-business second year; years three and four are hybrids of both disciplines, meaning Shapiro will be switching between the two schools next year.

Jim Arnold, a communications professor in the Full-time UST MBA, says Shapiro brings a level-headedness and calmness to his leadership style that people around him really appreciate. In class, he has observed that Shapiro is always extremely engaged and takes feedback well. Arnold especially enjoys working with him because there aren’t many students that pursue a JD/MBA degree and Shapiro truly “dives in and embraces everything.”

Dual degree aside, Shapiro is already fairly preoccupied–he’s an MBA ambassador and a member of the Mentor Externship Committee and Student Government at the law school, not to mention he’s also on the internship hunt.

Shapiro’s mind was opened to the legal field at age 18 when he was named a legal guardian to his younger sister Katie, who was born handicapped. Shapiro says her condition is similar to autism, but without the developmental delays. He mentions affectionately that she loves the Disney version of Scene It?–“She’s got a photographic memory,” he says. It’s easy to see that his sister’s vulnerability touches Shapiro. “She’s been a driving force in who I’ve become today, probably because I’ve had to learn how to be responsible at a really young age,” he says. “I know that I have to be there in the future when my parents aren’t able to take care of (Katie).”

This realization inspires a main theme in his life: to help those in need and to be the voice for those that go unheard. “She’s not going to be able to really represent herself in any type of capacity,” Shapiro says. He strives to “be the voice for people like that to make sure their needs are taken care of (and) to help those who are underprivileged.”

Though he has a vision, Shapiro is currently unsure where it’s going to lead him, calling himself the “career services problem child.” Possible career paths include serving as a CEO of a nonprofit organization or Fortune 500 company, or taking the entrepreneurial route and opening a small business. Shapiro already has insight on the latter, having managed Sontes, a five-star Rochester restaurant and wine bar, for three years. There’s also his developing interest in politics–a route that could aid him in achieving his goal through the position of Congressman or Senator, perhaps later in life.

Arnold says the faculty and staff like when students come in and don’t yet know what they want to do. “We spend a lot of time on building leadership skills that can be used in a variety of situations,” Arnold says, citing a hallmark of the program. As for Shapiro, Arnold says he can see him in any of the positions he’s considering. “He has the drive and the intelligence that are going to put him in a really good place.”

For now, Shapiro will be finishing his degree at the college he’s come to know and love. “St. Thomas took me in as an 18-year-old kid and, when I’m done, it’s going to be the better part of a decade that I’ll have spent here, with three degrees,” Shapiro says. “There’s not much more I can ask from them.”