Law school recognized for diversity efforts

The UC Davis School of Law resides at King Hall near Mrak Hall, appropriately named after Dr. King himself. (VENOOS MOSHAYEDI / AGGIE)
The UC Davis School of Law resides at King Hall near Mrak Hall, appropriately named after Dr. King himself. (VENOOS MOSHAYEDI / AGGIE)

UC Davis Law School receives American Bar Association award for pipeline efforts in increasing diversity.

At the center of the UC Davis King Law School stands a statue of its namesake, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His passion for community, equality and humanity stand testament to what the school and its students strive to accomplish every day.

This month, the UC Davis law program was recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity for its efforts in “pipeline diversity.” Specifically, this means increasing efforts in bringing students that come from underrepresented communities into practices and programs that assist them along the path to law school. This can extend from K-12 and high school to college, law school and eventually to practicing law professionally.

The 2016 Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Award for Excellence was presented Feb. 5 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.

“It was great to see people with the same passion and commitment come together,” said Kristen Mercado, assistant dean of UC Davis School of Law Admissions and Financial Aid.

The recognition and efforts of the law community have resonated deeply with the program staff, including the dean himself.

“The recognition we receive for this will help encourage other schools for programs like [The King Hall Outreach Program (KHOP)],” said Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law. “[KHOP] recognition means we’re doing what we can and more, but it also recognizes the idea of what we’re doing for diversity.”

KHOP has been a staple of the school since the program’s inception in 2001. It is designed to not only aid students from underrepresented communities in the law school admissions process, but also in receiving mentoring and pre-law advising during their academic career. Students receive tips, and learn the writing, analytical and reasoning skills needed to strengthen their skills in their academic pursuits.

“We want to make sure we are doing what we can so that small communities have fair and legal representation,” Mercado said. “One of the things that is really special about the award is the acknowledgement of the time and passion people have put into the program. It draws attention to the issues and hopefully inspires others to do mentoring to achieve that goal.”

According to ABA, 100 students have at least one year finished at KHOP to date, while 240 students have finished the two-year program. In addition, 41 percent of the students involved have graduated or are entering a law program, and 99 percent of the alumni involved are graduates from four-year universities. KHOP includes both a winter session during January and February and a summer session throughout July and August.

Diversity plays a pivotal role in the process. The Fall 2015 admission saw students of color as 49 percent of those entering the program.

“We’re a public university committed to the values of access, fairness and equality,” Johnson said. “We’re housing a building named after Dr. King — it goes to our core of what it means to be a law school. We see diversity and excellence as two values that go hand in hand — diversity is part of our fabric.”

Mercado has seen the value of diversity play a prominent part of the admissions process for the school.

“When it comes to admissions, our office is able to look for those candidates that are qualified, but also students that come from different communities and perspectives,” Mercado said. “They have awareness and consideration in that there is no one single perspective in the world and that we need to be aware of others.”

This portion of UC Davis has been able to achieve all this and more, uniting the community in its efforts to enhance diversity and perspective.

Different opinions, backgrounds and stories are all contributing factors to the school’s vision of representation and fairness. The staff, faculty and alumni hope to further this goal as the years go on. Despite the hardships students may face, there are the voices saying that the efforts and voices of students matter, no matter where a person comes from.
Written by: Alan Castillo — features@theaggie.org