Graduation Awards: Four in the Class of 2008

June 23, 2008

This year's graduation awards honored a number of outstanding law students — including Ray D. McKenzie, Rebecca Mroz, Alicia Ellington and Katherine Twomey. Click here for the full list of recipients.

Ray D. McKenzie

Ray D. McKenzie
James C. Slaughter Honor Award

Hometown: I was born in Durham, N.C., but I spent most of my life in Richmond, Va. In 2001, I moved to Northern Virginia and have been there ever since.

Education: I earned both a B.A. in English Language and Literature and a Master of Teaching from UVA. Subsequently, I earned a Master of Divinity from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond.

Why you wanted to be a lawyer: Several forces combined to send me back to school after spending seven years as a public school educator. First, from the time I first heard about Thurgood Marshall I had law in the back of my mind - taking a look at my high school yearbook reminded me of this dream a year before taking the LSAT. Second, I wanted to challenge myself intellectually, which I was not doing while I was teaching. The deciding factor, however, was when my wife, in the midst of a "discussion," told me I should get paid to argue.

Favorite law school experience: I have had so many. I definitely enjoyed being a peer advisor. I've built so many lasting relationships from that opportunity. I enjoyed participating in BLSA Mock Trial 1L and 2L year. It was great working with the other members of the team planning and executing our cases. My second go 'round went better than the first, but I learned from both.

Scholarly interests/specialties: I enjoy constitutional law - I've spent a lot of time researching relationships between modalities of constitutional interpretation as compared to biblical interpretation. I also enjoy anything resembling a courtroom. I definitely hope to have a trial practice at some point.

Favorite class: I can't name just one. Here's a list: Constitutional History, Education Law & Policy, American Social & Legal History, Poverty & the Constitution, and just about anything with Michael Collins.

Best learning experience: I can't name one. Working with the managing board of the Journal of Social Policy & the Law and completing independent research this past year taught me a lot.

Activities at the law school: BLSA, Street Law, peer advisor, LAW for US, Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law.

Future plans: In the fall I'll be clerking for Judge Spencer on the Eastern District of Virginia. After that I'll be working in D.C.

Best summer experience: Being able to see my wife every day, since during the school year I only got to see her on the weekends.

What you wish you could do over: Nothing. UVA Law was everything I expected. I appreciate the experiences, the people, and am satisfied with finishing up.

Favorite spot on Grounds: I honestly didn't spend much time on grounds - besides the journal office and the library, and those are too nerdy to list, right?

Favorite spot off Grounds: Being back home with the wife.

I knew I wanted to go to Virginia when: I met Paul Crane and got that wonderful tour.

Advice for entering students: Keep the faith!


Rebecca Mroz

Rebecca Mroz
Thomas Marshall Miller Prize
Stephen Pierre Traynor Award

Hometown: Centennial, Colo.

Education: Princeton University, B.A. in Politics, 2003.

Why you wanted to be a lawyer: I viewed the profession as a unique opportunity to combine my skills in writing and oral advocacy with my desire to help other people. This notion was confirmed after I worked at a business consulting firm for two years after college. While I liked working with clients, I missed the legal subject matter that I had been exposed to during my college internships.

Favorite law school experience: Participating in and winning the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition with my partner Michael Hollander. The competition brought together everything I love about UVA: intellectual rigor, teamwork and support from our wonderful community of faculty and students.

Scholarly interests/specialties: Trial Advocacy, particularly in the area of Criminal Law.

Favorite class: I enjoyed any class having to do with Trial Ad or Criminal Law, but I also loved Contracts with Professor Nachbar and Administrative Law with Professor Magill. I wouldn't normally gravitate toward those subjects, but Professors Nachbar and Magill really brought the subject matter to life.

Best learning experience: Moot Court. The competition spanned five rounds over two years, and it allowed me to explore several legal questions in great depth. It also motivated me to improve my writing and oral advocacy skills as I prepared to submit briefs and argue before federal district and appellate court judges.

Activities at the law school: William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition, Winner and Best Oralist; Dean Search Committee, Student Representative; Dillard Fellow; peer advisor; Journal of Law & Politics, Editorial Board; Virginia Law Women, Admissions Chair.

Future plans: After studying for the bar exam in Charlottesville, I will be moving to Washington, D.C. to work as an associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

Best summer experience: I had two very different but equally rewarding summer experiences. After my 1L year, I served as a research associate for Professor Magill. In addition to learning about administrative law, the position afforded me the opportunity to get to know Professor Magill, whom I admire greatly on a personal and professional level. After my 2L year, I worked as a summer associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Washington, DC, where I was given great responsibility on a number of litigation-focused projects.

What you wish you could do over: There is nothing I would do over because I have such wonderful memories of this place. But you can bet that I will come back to visit every chance I get.

Favorite spot on Grounds: You can't beat Spies Garden on a sunny day, though my attempts to "study" there never worked.

Favorite spot off Grounds: I have really enjoyed the variety of restaurants and entertainment on the Downtown Mall.

I knew I wanted to go to Virginia when: I visited campus during Admitted Students Weekend. I already knew that the Law School was a well-respected institution, but meeting students who were genuinely friendly and thrilled to be at UVA sealed the deal.

Advice for entering students: Don't come to law school with the mindset that this is simply a means to an end. At UVA, you will have the unique opportunity to learn from the nation's best faculty and to interact with its most gifted students, all while enjoying the beauty of Charlottesville. Make the most of every minute.


Alicia Ellington

Alicia Ellington
Robert E. Goldsten Award for Distinction in the Classroom
Daniel Rosenbloom award

Hometown: Athens, Ga.

Education: B.A. in History, University of Virginia, 2003

Why you wanted to be a lawyer: My father is a law professor and my older brother is a lawyer, so when I was growing up I didn't really think there were other options. I rebelled as a teenager by declaring that I would never go to law school, but after spending a summer in college working at a clinic that helped survivors of domestic violence get temporary protective orders, I discovered that I really enjoyed using the kind of analytical skills required in legal work.

Favorite law school experience: Early in the fall of my first year, I started studying with three other women in my section; they not only became three of my best friends, but studying with them contributed immeasurably to my learning experience in law school. Professor Woolhandler, who had been our small section professor, was kind enough to do a reading group with us in the fall of our third year, which was just terrific.

Scholarly interests/specialties: Civil procedure and administrative law.

Favorite class: That's hard because I had so many interesting classes with wonderful professors, but Federal Courts with Professor Nelson, Warren Court with Professor Klarman, and Classics in American Legal Thought with Professor Ryan were definitely among my favorites.

Best learning experience: I learned a tremendous amount as an executive editor for the Virginia Law Review . In addition to learning the rules of the Bluebook down cold and gaining a new appreciation for hyphens, I was exposed to interesting new ideas with every piece I edited. The experience was ultimately so positive, though, because the other execs and our editor-in-chief were so great to work with.

Activities at the law school: Virginia Law Review , peer advisor, research assistant for Professors Heytens and Howard, and the Academic Review Committee.

Future plans: Clerk, Judge T.S. Ellis, III, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Best summer experience: I did some really great projects with the education group at Hogan & Hartson during both summers in law school. I knew nothing about education law before working with the group, but I found it to be a really interesting and engaging area of law.

What you wish you could do over: I'd love to have a few more afternoons procrastinating with friends, but no real regrets.

Favorite spot on Grounds: Courts & Commerce - I really don't think I would have made it through law school without the bookstore ladies and ten-cent candy!

Favorite spot off Grounds: Bodo's, without a doubt.

I knew I wanted to go to Virginia when: I had loved being in Charlottesville as an undergrad, so as soon as I decided to apply to law school, I knew I wanted to come back.

Advice for entering students: Try to keep it all in perspective and enjoy your time: sure, things will get stressful, but the combination of an incredibly talented and friendly student body and an accessible and brilliant faculty means that there is no better place to study law.


Katherine Twomey

Katherine Twomey
Margaret G. Hyde Award
Z Society Shannon Award
Law School Alumni Association Best Note Award

Hometown: Vienna, Va.

Education: B.A. Economics, Yale University 2004

Why you wanted to be a lawyer: Initially, I thought law school would help prepare me for a career in public policy, but once I started, I realized that I enjoyed studying law for its own sake. Now I'm really looking forward to being a lawyer.

Favorite law school experience: It's hard to name just one, but two stand out. The first was being a peer advisor. I really enjoyed welcoming new students to UVA and getting to know them throughout the year. The other was being on the managing board of the Law Review. Despite the workload, it was a great opportunity to make new friends, learn about legal academia and work in a team atmosphere.

Scholarly interests/specialties: I'm still figuring out what I want my specialty to be, but in law school I was particularly interested in structural constitutional issues related to federalism and the separation of powers.

Favorite class: I can't pick a favorite! This past semester, I particularly enjoyed Civil Rights Litigation with Dean Jeffries. His incredible command of the material, clear presentation and sense of humor made it a great class. Although everyone is sad to see him step down as dean, future students are lucky that he will be spending more time in the classroom.

Best learning experience: My best learning experiences were with my study group. The girls in my study group became my closest friends in the law school and I wouldn't have learned nearly as much, nor had nearly as much fun, without them.

Activities at the law school: On the academic side, I worked on the Virginia Law Review, participated in the Olin Law & Economics program, and worked as a research assistant for professors. Outside of academics, I was a peer advisor and involved in the Student Bar Association.

Future plans: This year I will be clerking for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. I'm excited to be working for such a wonderful judge and to be able to stay in Charlottesville for another year.

Best summer experience: Working with talented lawyers at Hogan & Hartson and Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C.

What you wish you could do over: I would love to do it all over again, but I wouldn't change a thing!

Favorite spot on Grounds: Purcell Garden. It is the perfect place to read outside when the weather is nice.

Favorite spot off Grounds: Arch's Frozen Yogurt. The gooey brownie topping is amazing!

I knew I wanted to go to Virginia when: I always knew that I wanted to go to UVA Law School. I grew up in Northern Virginia and had always heard that UVA was the perfect mix of a fun collegial atmosphere and a high quality legal education, which was completely true.

Advice for entering students: Get to know your professors. No one cares more about teaching than they do, and they are absolutely wonderful people. And have fun, the three years will fly by!

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

News Highlights