In the 13 years she’s worked at the University of Virginia School of Law, Jennifer Markham Hulvey has counseled thousands of students on how to manage their finances and build wealth after graduation. But with her open mind and caring manner, she has also helped make the school a more welcoming place for many more students to come.

Hulvey, the Law School’s assistant dean for financial aid, education and planning, is this year’s staff recipient of UVA’s John T. Casteen Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Leadership Award, which recognizes and honors members of the University community “who best demonstrate exemplary leadership in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion.” The award was announced on Tuesday.

Described by colleagues as the “beating heart” of the Law School’s student services team, Hulvey joined the school in 2009 from UVA’s Student Financial Services office. In remarks and letters nominating her for the award, students and co-workers praised her for her warmth, her skill at educating students about their finances and her many endeavors to build an inclusive community. They also expressed appreciation for her outreach to LGBT students, veterans, people of color and first-generation students.

The simple truth is that Jennifer Hulvey believes every person should be valued, and in turn Jennifer helps each of us find value in ourselves,” Wade Foster, a 2019 alumnus, wrote in support of her nomination. “Jennifer’s background and life experience give her the ability to both understand, and maintain the trust of, very diverse groups of people.”

Hulvey was raised on a multigenerational rural Virginia farm, located in a hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Though her father worked as a telephone company lineman, he and her extended family also maintained what she called “a typical Appalachian subsistence farm.” Her isolation growing up in the country made for a number of awkward encounters and embarrassing moments as she learned to navigate college and the professional world. 

“I made so many mistakes and I was embarrassed by things that everyone else seemed to just know, and I didn’t,” Hulvey said. “I went from being a straight-A student in our small high school, where our highest available math class was trig, to nearly failing out of college my first year. I just didn’t understand how any of it worked and I was constantly out of place.” 

Hulvey has made it her mission for UVA Law students to feel welcome no matter their background.

“Our differences make each of us special and unique in our own way,” she said. “When a student identifies an area where they want to make changes, like learning to handle finances or learning how to dress for the corporate world, I want them to know that we have resources to help and how to access those resources, and I don’t want them to be embarrassed that they don’t already know these things. I want to be a person they can feel safe coming to with whatever they are facing.”

Hulvey said her service to community is deeply rooted in her Christian faith.

“Working with our students is an honor and the very best part of my job,” she said. “For me, this award reflects on the effort our whole community puts into being each other’s neighbors, and I feel incredibly grateful to have a part in it.” 

Hulvey’s efforts on behalf of students extend from building a robust and proactive financial counseling services model to actively reaching out to students and student organizations who may need more in-depth support.

Each year, she attends an array of student affinity group events and co-hosts welcome dinners and lunches, all with the goal of ensuring that students see her as an ally.

“Being around Jennifer is like being at home; she is warm, accepting of everyone, and sometimes even puts herself second if that means it will help someone else,” alumna Shruthi Prabhu ’19 wrote.

Hulvey created a system to share external scholarship listings with law students, and routinely reaches out to individuals and relevant student organizations to encourage students to apply. Thanks in part to her efforts, 55 LGBT law students have received $350,000 in scholarship funding from the Serpentine Society, an LGBT alumni organization that has funded professorships, scholarships and programming at UVA since 2016. The society awarded Hulvey its Outstanding Service Award in 2017 for her commitment in creating a more positive and welcoming environment for the LGBT community. 

Hulvey also advocated for the creation of additional gender-neutral restrooms and has assisted transgender students with name changes.

Professor Anne Coughlin, the faculty adviser for the student LGBT organization Lambda Law Alliance, talked to Hulvey frequently about the concerns of students, Coughlin wrote in a letter recommending Hulvey for the award.

“At the end of the day, Jennifer models her conduct on the clear prescription to love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” Coughlin wrote. “Following that command, Jennifer works to keep every student safe — in mind as well as in body — and to provide the resources that can help them to become forces for good in the world.”

Dean Risa Goluboff said that on top of providing a warm and welcoming environment for students, Hulvey has vastly increased and enhanced the support her office provides.

Hulvey offers a “wrap-around suite of services that begins before students matriculate and continues long after they have graduated,” Goluboff said. “Jennifer’s student-centered approach has endeared her to a generation of UVA Law students and alumni.”

Hulvey’s team particularly focuses on incoming international students and students with high levels of college debt, Goluboff said. Those students tend to need more financial counseling and are more likely to be students of color, first-generation and low-income students.

Senior Assistant Dean for Career Development Kevin M. Donovan, who works closely with Hulvey and joined the Law School the same year, said her efforts were an “inspiration.”

“Because she obviously cares so deeply for her students, they are willing to share information, accept advice and be vulnerable in a way that they would not with others,” Donovan wrote.

In addition to teaching every student how to budget, plan and manage money, Hulvey also runs classes on investing, buying a house and other topics students may not know much about.

“This level of training and knowledge transfer is key to an inclusive culture — making sure all students have the information necessary to make informed life decisions,” Donovan wrote.

Hulvey has also paid special attention to the needs of students who are veterans and active-duty military.

Realizing that the Law School participated in the military’s Yellow Ribbon Program — which provides education benefits — but had historically provided no particular support to military students, Hulvey built a centralized hub for them. She also liaises with the Virginia Status Office and University Registrar’s Veterans Benefits team on their behalf. She has been instrumental in connecting students to the Tillman Scholar program as well.

Third-year student Jordan Armstrong, a veteran, said Hulvey “has the right contacts and the right answers to tough questions.”

“In my three years here, I am not aware of a single instance of paperwork hindering a vet,” Armstrong wrote. “That may not sound incredible, but please trust me when I say that it is.”

Hulvey’s impact on students lasts beyond their three years here.

Alumnus Daniel Richardson ’18, who went on to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court, writes that he still turns to Hulvey for counsel even years after graduation.

“To me, her guidance is a rare and undeserved gift,” he said. “For her, it’s just another day at the office, where she has helped transform UVA Law into the welcoming and inclusive institution it has become.”

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.

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