Elon Law welcomes the Class of 2017

Comprised of 112 students, representing 21 states, and 74 colleges and universities, the ninth entering class at Elon Law began immediately to learn and make an impact through community service and intellectual exchanges during orientation week, held August 18-22.

In their first week together at Elon Law, the Class of 2017 engaged in community service projects in support of 12 regional nonprofit organizations, a tour of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, a new student convocation ceremony featuring remarks from nationally prominent lawyer Robert J. Grey, Jr., small group discussions with faculty to consider insights from the book, “Storming the Court: How a Band of Yale Law Students Sued the President – and Won,” and receptions with members of the Elon community, family and friends.

Speaking at the convocation ceremony for entering students, Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman described the challenges and opportunities facing the Class of 2017.

“Becoming a lawyer is not a mere course of study; it is a path of lifelong commitment, full of duty and responsibility, as well as privilege and satisfaction,” said Bierman. “A lawyer’s obligation is multifaceted and complex, focusing on your clients, your communities and yourselves. That’s a lot to ask and it’s not always easy to fulfill. We sometimes have to put others ahead of our own interests. We sometimes have to think about how to make our society or our profession better, before we make ourselves better. Our challenge then is to do good while doing well. It is not always easy. But it is the path we have chosen because we as lawyers have a special responsibility as officers of the court, with public obligations, in a society that is woven together by a commitment to the rule of law.”

Alan Woodlief, senior associate dean for admissions and administration, and associate professor of law, detailed for the class some of their individual attributes, including study and work abroad in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, Peru, Romania and the United Kingdom, familiarity with at least ten languages and service as military veterans, Eagle Scouts, international disaster and AIDS relief workers, youth athletics coaches and camp counselors, participants in the guardian ad litem program, and volunteers for disabled veterans.

“You all have amassed an impressive record of achievement,” Woodlief said. “We look forward to seeing you channel this energy, leadership and commitment to service in the legal profession.”

North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) President Catharine Biggs Arrowood and Executive Director Allan Head welcomed the Class of 2017 on their journey into the profession.

“We think it is so important for you to engage early on with other lawyers,” Arrowood said. “The network of connections that I made through the bar association with senior members of the bar really stood me in good stead. You will learn all these ethics rules and all these rules of court, but the devil is in the details, and when you have a network of more senior lawyers who you can call on, talk to confidentially and get advice, you will be a better lawyer, a better advocate for clients and a wonderful professional.”

Andrew J. Haile, associate dean for academic affairs, noted for the class the challenging yet personalized environment at Elon Law.

“Elon prides itself on sustaining a vibrant community that is intellectually rigorous while also supportive of its members,” Haile said. “We ask for your best to excel at Elon Law, and we offer you our very best in support of your education, your professional development and your career success. We are proud to be your partners on this journey, your teachers, mentors, advisers and colleagues within the broader legal profession.”

Elon Law Alumni Association President Andrea Harrell L’09 welcomed the Class of 2017 on behalf of the law school’s alumni.

“We look to support you as a key part of your professional network, beginning today, continuing throughout your time at Elon Law and throughout your careers,” Harrell said. “We are an alumni association that truly cares for each other and for the entire Elon Law community.”


Members of Elon Law’s Class of 2017 contributed a day of service at 12 nonprofit organizations and a city operated youth sports complex during orientation week. The following reflections about the value of this day of service are from members of the Class of 2017, law student mentors and representatives from the nonprofit organizations where students contributed volunteer service.

Covecreek Gardens

Covecreek Gardens is described on its website as a public teaching garden that “promotes the art of horticulture and demonstrates the conservation of water and native plants while providing the public with a living laboratory for research, learning and interaction with the natural world.”

“It was nice to get outside and do gardening,” said Jeffrey Bloomfield, a member of the Class of 2017. “I was with the Peace Corps in Moldova, and part of what we did there was work in the vineyards. In relation to my growth as a law student, I find a certain symbolism between growth in a garden and a career path. Gardening teaches patience and flexibility, which are attributes that I anticipate will serve me well as I begin my law school career.”

“It has been an enjoyable experience being a leader so far and helping the new class in their adjustment to law school,” said Gonzalo Ventura, a member of the Class of 2016 and a mentor to members of the entering class. “I certainly remember the optimism I felt a year ago versus the tempered expectations I have now. I feel that orientation has been very efficient this year. I attribute the credit for that to our great group of mentors. Also, I have personally enjoyed getting to know my group of ‘mentees.’ They have been quite personable and fun to work with.”

“We started working with the Elon University School of Law Pro Bono Board four years ago when a member of the Board contacted us, looking for environmental volunteer activity for the Board and the school to get involved in,” said Julia Blizin, founder and treasurer of Covecreek Gardens and retired garden designer. “There has been a huge benefit of the garden’s offerings to the community, especially for volunteers such as those from Elon Law, in that working with such volunteers gives one more opportunity to share our mission, which is to educate individuals on the art of horticulture and the conservation of native plants and water.”

Juvenile Diabetes Research Center (JDRC), Piedmont Triad Chapter

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research.

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to get out into the community, meet new people and discover and familiarize myself with the community’s needs,” said Jordan Steward, a member of the Class of 2017. “I felt that this experience was beneficial and rewarding in that regard. It felt very much like an introduction to being a leader in the community, much in the way that I anticipate being as a future lawyer.”

“Coming in as a 1L last year, everything was hectic because we were new,” said Michael Ohrenberger, a member of the Class of 2016 and a mentor to entering students. “Stepping back and looking at the new group, they seem very bright-eyed. I think that as mentors, we did a lot of things right this year. From my point of view, a future lawyer needs to be able to work with a group of people with different views but at least one common interest, such as resolving a legal matter. Helping to get the new 1Ls on the same page in order to accomplish our goals as volunteers was, in that regard, beneficial to me as a law student and future advocate.”

“This is the third or fourth year that Elon University School of Law has volunteered with us, the law school having reached to our chapter of JDRF,” said Mike Conrad, Executive Director, JDRF, Piedmont Triad Chapter. “For our organization, team-building and camaraderie lead to leadership skills for our volunteers and more revenue to raise money for research. As volunteers, Elon Law students are a godsend. Our organization is founded on a staff/volunteer relationship, and we could not raise money without volunteers like those from the Law School.”

Goodwill Industries of Central North Carolina, Inc. (GICNC)

Goodwill Industries of Central North Carolina, Inc. states on its website that it, “promotes the value of work by providing career development services and work opportunities for people with employment needs.”

“I felt that volunteering for Goodwill and talking about how it relates to pro bono work was good for me personally because pro bono work connects directly with my career aspirations,” said Tevin Carr, a member of the Class of 2017 at Elon Law.

“Personally, in regards to serving as a mentor, I feel that it is nice to pay it forward,” said Diane Pappayliou, a member of the Class of 2016 and a mentor to entering students. “My mentor last year was Emily Seawell and my experience with her was great. Now that I am a mentor myself, it is a good feeling to be able to help the new students and help with the scariness and confusion that inevitably comes with beginning law school. I anticipate continuing to mentor the new students after orientation is over.”

“This is the second year that we have been involved with Elon University School of Law,” said Deanna Miller, Volunteer Coordinator at GICNC. “The law students are a great fit. We want people to be exposed to what Goodwill does, and it is beneficial being able to show students more of what Goodwill does in the community to put people back to work.”