Elon Law's fifth annual Diversity Day welcomed minority high school and college students, among others, to a day of information about legal education and opportunities for careers in law. Students and their families attended the February 11 event, featuring The Honorable James Randolph Spencer, the first African-American Judge of the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.
The theme for this year’s forum was “Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Unfinished Work,” focusing on the importance of education and the early identification of resources and options for students interested in attending law school. Sharon Gaskin, associate dean for admissions at Elon Law, and Max Armfield, director of admissions at the law school, were interviewed for an article in The Pendulum, Elon University’s student news organization, about the importance of the annual event.
Gaskin said Diversity Day helps area youth to learn about courses and programs that will prepare them for the rigors of law school and the demands of the legal profession. Armfield also described the event as an early opportunity for higher education planning and career reflection by high school and college students.
“An Elon Law program like Diversity Day, which is open to students who might not have ever been on a college campus, helps students to reach long-term educational and professional goals by providing tools to help them stay in school and be successful there,” Armfield said in The Pendulum.
Keynote speaker, Judge James Spencer, was appointed by United States President Ronald Reagan to serve on the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, where he served as chief judge from 2004-‘11. Prior to his service as a federal judge, he served as the first African-American assigned to the Major Crimes Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. At Diversity Day, Spencer spoke openly about his life and career, encouraging students to work hard and strive to reach their goals by obtaining a solid educational foundation.
Prior to Judge Spencer’s address, attendees were able to ask questions to a panel of law students and a panel of local attorneys. The attorney panel included Henry Frye, Jr., retired superior court judge now with firm of Maddox & Gorham, P.A.; Miriam Heard, a 2009 Elon Law graduate and staff attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina; Kelly Thompson, assistant district attorney at the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office; and Brian Tomlin, attorney at Higgins Benjamin Eagles & Adams, PLLC.
“The attendees seemed like they had prepared for the experience and their questions were pointed and direct,” said Karima Grady, a second-year law student who has assisted with Diversity Day for the past two years. “It was refreshing to hear some genuine views about the value, absence and overall experiences with diversity they have had.”
This year, Grady delivered opening remarks and introduced Elon Law Dean George Johnson, Jr., who spoke about the law school and its commitment to diversity. He was followed by Dean Gaskin, who gave a presentation about law school admissions and financial aid. Law student panelists included: Ben Crissman ’14, Sherea Burnett ’13, Brenna Ragghianti ’13, Pedro Mantilla ’13, Ami Ba ’13, Lavanya Jagadish ’13, Greg Easley ’13, and Lien To, ’12.
Second-year law student Gwendolyn Lewis served as Diversity Day committee chair and coordinated planning for the event with the admissions office at Elon Law. In addition to high school and college students and their families, many law student volunteers participated in the forum, serving as greeters, panelists and moderators throughout the day.
Following Judge Spencer’s address, students attended a law school fair on the second floor of Elon Law’s H. Michael Weaver Building, featuring representative from seven different law schools. Other representatives with Information about the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) preparation and Elon’s Black Law Students Association also attended the fair.
Diversity Day keynote speakers at Elon Law have included:
- 2008 – Julius Chambers, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1984 to 1993 and Chancellor of North Carolina Central University from 1993 to 2001
- 2009 – Elaine R. Jones, the first woman President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (1993-2004)
- 2010 – Timothy Tyson, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and author of Blood Done Sign My Name
- 2011 – Julianne Malveaux, President of Bennett College for Women.
The annual event is sponsored in part by Law School Admission Council as part of DiscoverLaw.org Month.
Click here to learn more about Elon Law’s commitment to diversity.
Click here for the Elon Law admissions office homepage.
Reporting for the article contributed by Courtney Roller ’13.