Before coming to the University of Virginia School of Law, Jordan Kijewski ’24 helped underrepresented high school students apply to college and “adopted” a grandmother who became a close friend.

Kijewski, a native of Haymarket, Virginia, studied U.S. government and politics and American studies as an undergraduate at UVA.

At the Law School, she serves as historian for the Black Law Students Association, a managing board member of the Virginia Journal of International Law, a Law School Ambassador and a research assistant for Professor Kimberly Jenkins Robinson.

In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Kijewski discussed volunteering for Madison House at UVA, working for AmeriCorps and why her Criminal Law class was so meaningful.

Why law school?

Most of my knowledge of the law prior to beginning at UVA Law was shaped by my parents, both of whom have worked as lawyers. From a young age, I remember hearing their stories from work and thinking that the law was an area with the potential to help more people than I could wrap my mind around. This was instantly appealing. My parents weighed in with advice whenever someone they knew had a legal question, and I remember wondering why something as ubiquitous as the law remained so confusing to so many people. If we are all bound by the law, shouldn’t we all understand its rules? I have remained curious about the law and how it influences our society — specifically, differences in the ways people of various backgrounds interact with the law. I am sure that my time at UVA Law will help me answer that question and shape my own view of and interaction with the law going forward.

What were some of your most rewarding experiences as a UVA undergrad?

By far, the most rewarding experience I had as an undergrad at UVA was my work with the Outreach Student Advisory Board, a joint student-faculty board that worked to make college admission more equitable and UVA more accessible for students of all backgrounds. Working under former Dean Valerie Gregory taught me so much about higher education and the ways to advocate for real change in seemingly rigid structures. I was able to work one-on-one with prospective students and their families to plan for and acclimate to college life as well as advocate for University-wide changes to admission and orientation methods.

The most fun extracurricular activity I participated in was Madison House’s Adopt-a-Grandparent program. Every week, my group visited a local nursing home and spent the afternoon with our partner residents there. My “adopted grandmother” and I read together, worked on puzzles and even had a joint Halloween costume together. (I was Serena Williams — our favorite athlete — and she was a tennis ball, wearing a bright yellow outfit!) The program was designed for students to spend time brightening the days of local seniors, but our weekly conversations are some of my most cherished memories from my time at UVA. I certainly benefited tremendously from her influence.

Tell us more about your time with AmeriCorps.

Between college and law school, I served as an AmeriCorps member in the Virginia College Advising Corps, a local division of the National College Advising Corps. The goal is to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented high school students entering and completing higher education. During my service, I was placed at a high school in Richmond, Virginia, and assisted over 700 students with the college application and financial aid processes, advised on job and career searches and helped with military enlistment. I was also a track and field coach!

My two years with AmeriCorps were challenging and rewarding in so many ways. Coming into a school that did not have a particularly strong college-going culture and attempting to change that culture was definitely the biggest challenge. Many of my students felt defeated before the process even began, but dedicating time and personalized attention to each student and their families throughout the year kept them encouraged and motivated to complete and submit college and job applications, gaining confidence along the way. Some of the methods my co-teacher and I implemented are still used in the school today, and it is extremely rewarding to recognize that our hard work is still making application processes more accessible to the students there.

In the second half of the year, most of the senior class was excited rather than nervous about college and the next chapters of their lives. A few of my students even secured full scholarships to their first-choice schools, and I still keep in touch with many of them.

Describe your most interesting law school experience.

I don’t think any one experience really defines my law school experience so far, but the courses I’ve taken have already been extremely influential in the ways I think about past, present and future legal landscapes. Taking Professor Anne Coughlin’s Criminal Law course at a time with such generation-defining national cases as those of Derek Chauvin and Kyle Rittenhouse spurred a unique type of engagement with the law. I am extremely thankful for the professors I’ve had here who utilize contemporary debates and events to enhance class discussion, and my Criminal Law class certainly did so in ways that broadened my worldview.  

I have also had several opportunities to learn from prominent lawyers and legal scholars I look up to. Lunch with Justice Stephen Breyer and a roundtable discussion with Steve Schleicher — the head prosecutor in Derek Chauvin’s trial — are two experiences I will carry with me throughout my life and career.   

What’s something your classmates don’t know about you?

I love to run! My older sister and I have raced the Charlottesville Ten Miler together a few times over the years, as well as a half marathon. This year at the race, I ran into my supervisors from my AmeriCorps position as well as Professor Naomi Cahn. We even ran together for a while!

What’s next for you?

This summer I am working at the Department of Labor as well as assisting Professor Kimberly Robinson with research for her upcoming publications. I have always been curious about regulatory work, and a previous internship with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division really solidified that interest for me. After graduation, I hope to pursue a career in private practice in antitrust mergers and acquisitions work, hopefully on the East Coast, close to family.

Equally importantly, though, I hope my law degree will enable me to move through the world as a more educated and informed member of society. I hope to always use my law degree to support advocacy for underserved, marginalized and vulnerable communities in better and more productive ways.

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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