Four students will “use their voices to advocate for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive law school environment” while Associate Professor Tiffany Atkins L’11 works to support recommendations of the Law School Ad-Hoc Inclusive Excellence Strategic Planning Committee.
Elon Law has selected four students in the Class of 2023 as the inaugural cohort of a new Fellows program designed to enhance and promote inclusive excellence throughout the university’s downtown Greensboro campus community.
Joining them in their work is a professor selected as Elon Law’s inaugural Dean’s Faculty Fellow for Equity & Inclusion.
The four Student Diversity Fellows – Michelle Aguilar L’23, J. Caitlyn Bullock ‘21 L’23, Cassandra Saxton L’23, and Jasmine Turner L’23 – will meet biweekly with leadership of Elon University’ Division of Inclusive Excellence, attend training sessions, participate in Student Bar Association meetings, and showcase research at approved conferences, among other responsibilities.
At the same time, Associate Professor Tiffany Atkins L’11 will focus her work as Dean’s Faculty Fellow for Equity & Inclusion on helping Elon Law meet the new standards introduced by the American Bar Association, ensure that students have opportunities to take a course on racism and bias at the start and finish of their legal education, and support the recommendations of the Law School Ad-Hoc Inclusive Excellence Strategic Planning Committee.
“These fellowships represent a direct investment by Elon Law in building a community that respects the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, not only in the classroom, but in the legal profession,” said Elon Law Interim Dean Alan Woodlief. “I am excited to watch Professor Atkins set the standard for future Faculty Fellows for Equity & Inclusion, and I am equally pleased to see students who care so deeply for our law school that they pursued this opportunity to help us all be better advocates for those who are underrepresented and marginalized.”
Laké Laosebikan-Buggs, the university’s director of inclusive excellence for graduate and professional education, echoed the same sentiments. She and Atkins worked together to conceptualize the Student Diversity Fellows program and were inspired by a similar initiative at the USC Gould School of Law.
“I am thrilled to be a part of an organization like Elon Law, who embraces the belief that ‘inclusive excellence’ is an indispensable component of academic excellence,” Buggs said. “We are committed to enriching the learning and scholarly environment for all members of the Elon Law community and our newly selected Dean’s Faculty Fellow for Equity and Inclusion and our inaugural class of Student Diversity Fellows provides for, and promotes a culture, that embraces diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accountability in every way.
“I am excited to work with this group of student scholars and professional faculty, as we advance the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee and law school constituents.”
Meet the Inaugural Student Diversity Fellows
Michelle Aguilar L’23
Hometown: South Texas & Miami, Florida
Alma Maters: B.A. in Politics, Sewanee: The University of the South; Master of Science in Education (Education and Social Change), University of Miami
Intended Practice Areas: Business Law, Intellectual Property Law
“As the daughter of a Nicaraguan immigrant and third-generation Chicano (Mexican American), I perceive the law school experience through the lens of marginalized communities. I am looking forward to serving as a Diversity Fellow because I believe that increased understanding of each other’s perspectives can lead to incremental change within our community. DEI work is challenging but incredibly powerful. It requires active listeners, supportive educators, and brave leaders. Right now, 2% of lawyers in the United States are Latinas. 5% of lawyers in the United States are black. It is truly necessary to the legal profession that we begin to support individuals from diverse backgrounds. As a DEI fellow, I hope to foster a more inclusive environment for all students at Elon Law.”
J. Caitlyn Bullock ‘21 L’23
Hometown: Beaufort, N.C.
Alma Mater: B.A. in Philosophy, Elon University
Intended Practice Area: Public Interest Law
“‘Advocate zealously’ was a phrase I heard more times than I can count just in my first month at Elon. As students preparing to enter into the legal profession, I believe it’s our obligation to represent clients respectfully and responsibly. To this end, I think it is important for those with relative privilege, like myself, to persist in questioning the biases that may shape our perspectives, to best avoid mindlessly acting in wrong or hurtful ways. It’s uncomfortable to confront and acknowledge one’s biases but continued self-reflection and questioning are necessary to not only advocate zealously but to be a part of the change we want to see within the legal profession and at Elon.”
Cassandra Saxton L’23
Hometown: New Britain, Connecticut
Alma Mater: B.A. in English, University of Connecticut
Intended Practice Areas: Municipal Law or Criminal Law
“I love EIon Law and am honored to serve as a Diversity Fellow. Following almost a decade of work promoting diversity and inclusion, I look forward to connecting, uplifting, and supporting a variety of people at the law school. Through the DEI initiative, we can create greater spaces to celebrate our differences and acknowledge our struggles so that our faculty, staff, and students never feel alone or unnoticed. After all, our community is made up of all of us.”
Jasmine Turner L’23
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
Alma Mater: B.S. in Criminal Justice, North Carolina A&T State University
Intended Practice Area: Criminal, Family, and/or Maritime Law
“I am honored to have been selected as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fellow. I’ve always believed that representation matters in the legal profession and hope to facilitate positive adjustments at Elon Law that will help achieve that. As a Black woman, nontraditional student and parent, I know what it’s like to feel invisible. Promoting diversity and inclusion in legal education means that students who don’t meet the traditional standards for law school are seen and supported. I look forward to the work that the DEI fellows will begin and know that it will have a lasting effect on Elon School of Law.”
About the Dean’s Faculty Fellow for Equity & Inclusion
Atkins graduated from Elon Law in 2011 as the recipient of the David Gergen Award for Leadership and Professionalism. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers, a community of law teachers, law school administrators, librarians, academic support experts, students, and affiliates “working for more than 40 years to improve the legal profession, the law academy and expand the power of law to under-served communities.” She previously worked in Greensboro at Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Atkins was bestowed with the 2022 ALWD Diversity Award by the Association of Legal Writing Directors during a July conference organized by the Legal Writing Institute.
“I am excited to work with this group of brilliant law students on critical issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Elon Law,” Atkins noted about the four inaugural Student Diversity Fellows. “Each of them brings fresh ideas on how to achieve inclusive excellence, and I feel confident that they will usher the law school into a new, more progressive era.”
About Elon Law
Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With a focus on learning by doing and among the top quartile of American law schools for low levels of student loan debt at graduation, it integrates traditional classroom instruction with course-connected, full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their legal careers.