A diversity of perspectives enhances the Law School's classroom conversation and fosters shared values of tolerance, respect and mutual support. Teamwork, cooperation, respect for different points of view, skilled communication and an understanding of varied perspectives are all an integral part of a profession that serves an increasingly diverse society.
James Barolo '14
Hometown: San Mateo, Calif.
Education: University of California, Berkeley, political science
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Virginia Law Review, Lambda Law Alliance, West Coast Wahoos, Peer Advisor
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity, for me, is about different perspectives. A variety of perspectives is important because different perspectives often lead to different interpretations, ideas and potential solutions to problems. And in any environment more ideas and solutions are preferable to fewer. I think experiences tend to drive perspective, especially those experiences that are core to a person's individuality. This means that to achieve meaningful diversity, people of differing socioeconomic status, ethnicity, country of origin, geographic region, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation need to be brought together.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... My voice has constantly been heard at UVA through the Peer Advisor program. As a peer advisor, I help 1Ls with the mechanics of law school like studying and social activities, but my most important task is fostering UVA's community of mutual respect and collegiality to subsequent classes. And being a minority gives my appeal for mutual respect more credence.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: What sets UVA apart from other law schools is the community. UVA prides itself on an environment of mutual respect, collegiality and a sense that we are all in it together. While UVA may not be the most diverse school, students at the school are valued by the faculty, administration and other students regardless of affiliation with any particular affinity group.
The community spirit: Classmates have demonstrated they cared during the countless times that my male significant other has been invited to and welcomed at events. I know professors and administrative staff care because several of them made a point to come to Lambda's (UVA's LGBT group) first meeting of the year and said that if any of us ever needed anything, their door was open.
Eve Aguilar '13
Hometown: Boulder, Colo.
Education: B.A., Colorado College
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Latin American Law Organization, vice president; Migrant Farmworker Project, co-director; Immigration Law Program, student coordinator; Action for a Better Living Environment, big sister; St. Thomas More Society, vice president; UVA Law National Trial Advocacy Team; Virginia Law Women; Virginia Tax Review
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity means hearing, respecting and valuing all voices. Different voices provide necessary perspective on the global society in which we live. Diversity allows us to build a compassionate and safe environment. We educate and learn from those around us, leading to a richer learning experience.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... One of the things that I’ve most enjoyed at UVA Law is the Immigration Law Program. For the last two years, I have served as the student coordinator of the program. I interface with the faculty committee to brainstorm ideas for events, arrange speakers, establish themes and execute programs. It’s exciting to work directly with professors as an equal, especially when they are such superstars in their respective fields. Although I’m a student, the professors are very interested in my perspective and insight. I’m particularly excited about our next event: a field trip to the Arlington Asylum Office and Immigration Court. We’ll observe actual asylum interviews and immigration proceedings. This is the first year that we’ve had such an opportunity, and it’s exciting to be part of the process to turn it into a reality.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: Keep an open mind and be curious. There are myriad things one can do with a law degree, and your law school classes won’t give you a full picture of all your options. Attend panels and events, talk to lawyers, have informational interviews and go to networking functions.
The community spirit: During 1L spring semester, my father underwent multiple emergency surgeries and was in a coma for several weeks. I, understandably, was a total mess. While all of my professors were understanding and accommodating, one of my professors, Anne Coughlin, was particularly kind. She regularly sent me emails to ask me about my father’s health and how I was handling it. She even emailed me over the summer. Two years later, she still asks me how my father is every time she sees me.
Sarah Buckley '14
Hometown: Richmond, Va.
Education: University of Virginia
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Public Interest Law Association (PILA), Virginia Law Democrats, Hunton & Williams Domestic Violence/Family Law Pro Bono Project, Virginia Law Review, and, of course, softball.
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity means the acceptance of and appreciation for a wide variety of backgrounds, viewpoints, cultures and life experiences. Most importantly, I think it means recognizing the limitations of your own experience and learning from a multitude of perspectives.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... As a PILA representative for my 1L section, I was immediately a key part of the PILA organization, helping plan events and getting people involved in public interest. It was nice to have a leadership opportunity right off the bat, and it allowed me to meet a lot of great 2Ls and 3Ls.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: Stop considering and do it! UVA is the best place in the country to study law: We’ve got the most beautiful campus, the most kind and supportive classmates, and the most warm and engaging faculty. The faculty and staff are dedicated to helping you find what you are passionate about and then helping you forge a career path to get there. And you'll enjoy yourself while doing it!
The community spirit: In the spring of my 1L year, my cat had a medical emergency and I had to miss a class because of it. My professor was not only totally gracious and understanding about it, she was also genuinely concerned about me and my cat. A few days after I missed class, she checked up on me and asked how my cat was doing. It was so nice that she was understanding about something like that and that she remembered and reached out to me.
Elizabeth Dobbins '13
Hometown: Bloomfield, Ind.
Education: B.A., Virginia Military Institute
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: I have been active with the UVA Human Rights Program, the Human Rights Study Project, the Virginia Law Veterans and the Feminist Legal Forum. I also work part-time at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School Library across the street.
What does diversity mean to you? To me, diversity means that people from all backgrounds, religions, races and genders feel valuable to a community, that their peers care about and respect their opinions, and that they can enjoy well-rounded lives. Diversity is about relationships, understanding and dignity.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... I presented my findings with other members of the Human Rights Study Project about the status of human rights in Sri Lanka. After traveling abroad for three weeks and meeting with people who are truly suffering, it was an overwhelming honor to be able to tell their important stories and advocate for reform in Sri Lanka on their behalf.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: My time at UVA Law has been enriching and challenging, but UVA has its own particular culture, just like everywhere else. When considering UVA Law, consider how it will help you grow personally, as well as professionally. You will live here for three years, and those three years will be lived in, not blinked away.
The community spirit: My experience here has involved so many "small to you, big to me" acts. Deena Hurwitz, director of the Human Rights Program, gave me a picture book last year which told the story of a traveling camera. Many other professors have emailed me words of encouragement, and gave me valuable minutes of their time with patience and respect. My friends have been kind, helpful and supportive. Before I came to Law School, I didn't know whether the "cutthroat" Law School environment would be for me; luckily, I never experienced that at UVA Law.
Hometown: Bethesda, Md.
Education: Brigham Young University
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Rex E. Lee Law Society, Acappellate Opinions, Virginia Law Ambassador
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity provides an opportunity to develop intellectually because you are challenged by strong ideas that are articulated by people who disagree with you. By surrounding yourself with individuals from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities or sexual orientations, you receive a richer understanding of our world. The essential part is respecting the differences that exist and learning from them.
My voice at UVA Law was heard through… the incredible student organization system that UVA provides. There are over a dozen organizations at the Law School that bring together students of different racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds. This system allows everyone’s voice to be heard and there is no one voice that overpowers the rest.
My personal experience with the Rex E. Lee Law Society has been fantastic. I was provided a mentor as a frightened first-year in dire need of some help navigating the complexities of law school. The society organizes bimonthly meetings that include guest speakers, career training, service events and socials to get to know like-minded students.
Additionally, the collegial environment at the school promotes cross-organization collaboration. Often, organizations will co-sponsor debates or lectures on hot-button issues. Although these debates typically involve fundamental differences, the mutual trust and tolerance between organizations has created a very respectful atmosphere. These events have been some of my favorite to attend because they encapsulate the spirit of Virginia — education in camaraderie.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: Law school is hard enough, so you don’t want to hate where you go to school. The best way to determine if a school is a good fit for you is to talk to as many current students as possible. UVA provides contact information for many of the student organizations on campus. Find one you relate to and then contact those individuals to learn about their experience at the school.
The community spirit: One of the most stressful weekends of law school is the journal tryout weekend. In 72 hours, first-year students have to edit a journal article to conform with the standards used in legal journals, read about 250 pages of opinions regarding a specific question of law, and then write a 10-page paper about that same topic. During my tryout weekend I had more offers of help than I knew what to do with from second- and third-year students who had previously struggled through journal tryouts. They brought me meals in the library, candy and energy drinks to help me survive the late nights, and one third-year even made me promise to call him, no matter the time, if I needed anything. Although it was one of the most challenging weekends of my life, it was so much more bearable knowing that these other students were there to help me.
January Kim '14
Hometown: Seoul, Korea; and Philadelphia
Education: University of Pittsburgh
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Virginia Journal of International Law, Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity to me is people of different backgrounds (ethnicity, cultures, experiences, etc.) sharing their unique ideas that they developed from their differing perspectives. And like various instruments that sound beautiful on their own, but when brought together can create a powerful harmony, diversity can bring together interesting ideas that various people have to become ingenious creations.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... As a board member for APALSA, I help organize the events and know that UVA Law is very supportive of the events we host.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: You should definitely apply if you are looking into law schools. Everyone knows UVA is a top-rated school. It's one thing to get into a great law school, but it's three years of tough and stressful work, and you should consider what happens after you get into school. Once you get here, the people at UVA Law actually care about your happiness and success as a law student. If you are already a student, take advantage of the great faculty and administrative staff that want to talk to you and help you take the best first step in your legal career. And also take advantage of the fun activities offered by the different organizations!
The community spirit: A few friends and I took several professors out to lunch or a drink, and every professor I talked with was genuinely interested in my background, my interests, and shared with me what they thought was important for me to get out of law school. I think it's rare that professors are so curious about who their students are and what their goals are, at least from my experience in undergrad. UVA Law prides itself in having brilliant professors, but what impresses me even more about our school is that our professors are also down-to-earth and caring people.
Ariel Linet '13
Hometown: Boxborough, Mass., and Freeport, Maine
Education: B.A., Brandeis University
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law (managing editor), chair of the SBA Staff Appreciation Committee, Student Life panels (for visitors to the Law School), Libel Show, Virginia Law Women, Jewish Law Students Association
What does diversity mean to you? I think that diversity is being surrounded by people with different backgrounds, ideas, and life experiences, and actively taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from their perspectives.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... I took a small seminar course called Social Work of Law. This class was taught by a social worker and did not use the Socratic method. Instead, we spent almost all our time on class discussion. Although most of the students in the class were interested in public service work, we all had different pursuits that we were able to bring to the table. I really appreciated that atmosphere, which is different than the usual law school class, because I felt surrounded by people who understood my goals and intentions, yet were able to challenge me with new ideas. The interactions between the students were the focal point of the class.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: I didn't do this, but I think you should visit before you decide on a law school. You will learn an incredible amount of law no matter what school you choose. Since most courses will be offered no matter where you go, what makes the difference in your experience is the personality of the community. In my opinion, the community at UVA Law is fantastic, but it's important to make sure that it's right for you. The best ways to do that are by visiting, sitting in on classes to get a sense of the professors, speaking to current students to see if the atmosphere seems appealing to you, and exploring the town. We have a great Admitted Students Weekend and that's a good opportunity to come and see what it's like in C'ville.
The community spirit: There are so many small moments of people going above and beyond for the benefit of one another. As a 1L, I had peer advisors who came to every softball game and section event, and who responded reassuringly and graciously to my endless emails and worried questions. Last year, when I was a peer advisor for a group of the 1Ls, I remember a professor coming to us to talk over his concerns about one of our advisees. Just the other day, I had to miss class and a friend sent me notes without being asked. My Advanced Legal Research professor, who is also a law librarian, crafts handmade game shows to keep us engaged in learning; and one of his colleagues from the library came to class and pretended to be a client with a very elaborate backstory for half an hour. Professors regularly host us at their homes for class and for social events. There are many more examples!
Amanda Oakes '14
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Education: University of Virginia, African-American & African studies and anthropology
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Black Law Students Association (admissions and recruitment chair), Virginia Law Ambassador, Black Law Students Association Mock Trial Team, Virginia Tax Review
What does diversity mean to you? In my opinion, diversity is not limited to race. Diversity also encompasses gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and life experience along with so many other things. Diversity is crucial for education. Diversity leads to a greater number of perspectives that can enhance the learning experience inside and outside of the classroom. I firmly believe the University of Virginia understands this and has made great strides to make the Law School as diverse as possible.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... I am able to apply my life experience to discussing and solving legal and policy issues within the classroom. My voice is also heard when I have to opportunity to speak to prospective law students and help them navigate the path toward law school.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: My No. 1 tip for prospective students is to visit UVA Law. Visiting and taking the time to speak to students will showcase the collegial environment that makes UVA stand out from other top law schools. Also, particularly for minority students, I highly encourage reaching out to affinity organizations like the Black Law Students Organization and the Latin American Law Organization. These organizations are extremely active and exceptional resources. Speaking to current students will provide honest and invaluable perspectives of day-to-day life at UVA Law.
The community spirit: When my mentors through the Black Law Students Association — Theresa Clark, Najla Long, Ogechi Achuko and Priscilla Ochu-Arthus — took time out of their busy schedules throughout the year to give me invaluable academic, career and clerkship advice. These amazing women started as mentors, became role models and will remain lifelong friends.
Helen M. O'Beirne '13
Hometown: Richmond, Va.
Education: B.A. in psychology, minor in astronomy, University of Virginia;
M.S.W. (social work), Virginia Commonwealth University
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Virginia Law Foundation Public Service Fellow (summer 2012); Public Interest Law Association board member and first-year section representative; Program in Law and Public Service; co-chair and panel coordinator for Conference on Public Service and the Law; extensive pro bono work for the Legal Aid Justice Center and affiliated programs (JustChildren and Public Housing Association of Residents); directed research with The Molly Pitcher Project, culminating in class action lawsuit against Department of Defense for combat-exclusion policy in violation of the Equal Protection Clause (more).
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity is really hearing and valuing others’ perspectives. It doesn’t just mean taking the time to listen to someone who doesn’t look like you, though that’s a good start. Diversity is sharing more than the floor — it’s sharing power and working to empower everyone. It means acknowledging and evaluating your own biases and committing to overcome them. Diversity requires us to admit that our way isn’t the best way — that working with a group of intellectually, socially and economically diverse people creates stronger work product than what we would produce on our own or in an echo chamber. True diversity allows everyone to be their true selves without reproach or explanation.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... I joined the Molly Pitcher Project, a group of four students supervised by Professor Anne Coughlin working to challenge the female combat exclusion policy in the military. Every week, we would all meet to discuss equal protection doctrine and details about building a federal case. Needless to say, we talked about some very sensitive and controversial topics like rape, war and sexuality. But it was such a safe and stimulating setting that I always felt I could speak up, and that my contributions would be valued by the group. I will forever appreciate Professor Coughlin’s encouraging leadership and my fellow students’ respect and trust during the course of the Molly Pitcher Project. Because the project culminated in filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in some small way my voice continues to be heard on the important issue of gender equality.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: Be kind to yourself. I think the type of person who decides to go to law school is often extra hard on themselves. The pressures of law school tend to exacerbate this unfortunate tendency. UVA Law is great because the environment is less competitive than other schools and there are many opportunities to get involved in ways that aren’t just about being the smartest guy in the room. I’ve really appreciated the life lesson of humility I’ve learned in law school. Our value and worth isn’t measured solely by our brainpower. We are all contributing to the law school community in ways that we forget to honor and appreciate.
The community spirit: Last fall, I was sitting in Equal Protection class learning about discrimination against pregnant women. We were discussing an article about maternity leave, and both the author and many of my classmates thought that pregnancy shouldn’t be treated like an illness. Well, I was recently pregnant, and feeling very sick. Without disclosing my pregnancy to the class, I shared my thoughts that pregnancy is indeed physically challenging like sickness. I think a lot of the students were shocked by my unpopular view. After class, I stopped Professor Deborah Hellman, seeking solace. Before I’d told anyone but my husband and our parents, I shared with Professor Hellman that I was pregnant. She immediately congratulated and hugged me. It was such a relief to have told someone, especially someone who understood my joy, my worry and my overwhelming exhaustion. In that moment, Professor Hellman made me feel valued not only as a student, but as a person.
William Scott Terrell '13Hometown: Hampton, Va.
Education: B.A. in English, Morehouse College
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: Black Law Students Association, Prosecution Clinic, Public Interest Law Association
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity is a fact of life. Everyone has a different background and a different story to tell. These unique experiences inform our approach to tackling salient issues. Diversity allows for those different perspectives to be shared in a welcoming environment. For a community to really be diverse, it is essential that people feel comfortable engaging in open dialogue that draws upon their unique knowledge and cultural values.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... During my second year at UVA Law, I took a seminar with Professor J. Gordon Hylton on African-American lawyers. I really enjoyed this class because we delved into the practical issues that I expect to face as an African-American lawyer. Each class, I knew that my voice was heard and that my perspective mattered.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: Visit! Charlottesville is a great city. For many of us, this is the last opportunity that we will have to experience life in a college town as a college student. Everyone who visits Charlottesville falls in love with it. Also, our law school fosters an amazing quality of life. It's hard to explain how unique our law school is until you visit.
The community spirit: Once during my first year, I lost my cell phone in a classroom. I didn't realize it until I arrived back home that evening. I called my phone to see if someone would answer, and another student immediately picked up. He offered to meet me out somewhere, and I had my phone back in a few hours. UVA Law attracts a special type of student. It is easy to find people who care about your well-being and are always willing to lend a helping hand.
John Williams '14
Hometown: Dalton, Ga.
Education: B.A. in German and B.B.A. in international business, University of Georgia
Student organizations/extracurricular activities: pro bono service with the Charlottesville Public Defender's Office, Virginia Journal of Criminal Law, Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity is the tangling of unfamiliar webs to make the world's network stronger and smarter. It is the weaving of a more colorful tapestry so as to express its message more clearly. In short, diversity is the smelting of many cultures and approaches with the goal of finding better answers to the questions we face.
My voice at UVA Law was heard when... I expressed a desire to pursue a JAG position rather than a firm job, and the Career Services Center supported me. UVA's desire for diversity extends beyond its students' backgrounds to their futures, which is too often overlooked as an important component of true diversity.
Advice for those considering applying to, or attending, UVA Law: Visit the campus and get in touch with the admissions staff. I think that the environment of graduate education is too often discounted, and I was shown how much of a factor it can be when I visited UVA as an applicant. The warmth of the community we have at UVA Law is felt almost immediately after visiting here and meeting our students, and I think it is equally as alluring as any academic factors UVA can offer.
The community spirit: I think the readiness to meet and speak with students that my professors display every day shows how much professors here really want their students to learn and succeed. Before coming to law school, I thought that my law professors would keep their distance from students much more than undergraduate professors do, but, if anything, they've been much closer and warmer with my classmates and me.
Related Student Organizations
Virginia students have the opportunity to participate in innovative student organizations that bring together students of different racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, as well as people of different sexual orientations and political affiliations.
APALSA provides academic and social support to its members and reaches out to the Law School community on issues pertaining to Asian-Americans.
BLSA promotes the welfare of its members through educational, professional, cultural and social programs, while offering a forum for the discussion of issues affecting both the black law student and University communities. The group won National Chapter of the Year at the 2007 BLSA conference.
The Feminist Legal Forum is dedicated to advancing feminist discussion and awareness at the Law School and eradicating sexism within the legal profession.
JLSA provides cultural, educational and social programming for Jewish law students and serves as a resource for the rest of the Law School.
KALSA exists to provide a vibrant social community for current law students, to connect students to a professional career network, and to provide support for other students and student organizations with related interests.
Lambda Law Alliance provides a supportive network for sexual minorities and their allies enrolled in the Law School and heightens community awareness about legal issues relevant to sexual minorities.
LALO is an all-inclusive student group devoted to increasing awareness of legal issues facing Latinos and Latin America.
LCF is a nondenominational Christian fellowship committed to presenting Christianity to the Law School and the surrounding Charlottesville community through service, outreach and fellowship.
NALSA is an all-inclusive student group that increases awareness of legal issues affecting Native American populations and enables students to engage in activities related to Native culture.
The Peer Advisor Program helps acclimate first-year students to the law school experience and provides friendship and support throughout law school.
The Rex E. Lee Law Society supports members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) who are studying or interested in studying law at the University of Virginia.
The St. Thomas More Society fosters high ethical principles in the legal profession and in the community of Catholic lawyers.
Virginia Law Families supports and promotes the interests of students facing the challenges of attending law school while raising children.
Virginia Law Veterans serves as an information resource on veterans’ issues and national security and international law and policy topics. The organization sponsors events that support the school’s military community.
Virginia Law Women is dedicated to addressing issues that interest, concern and affect women in law school.
Women of Color promotes the welfare of the diverse population of women at the Law School through a number of programs.
Many Voices Brochure