Ode to the Class of 2023

Grads Who Made Their Mark — Plus, Ceremony Details
Marley Peters, John Brown, Yewande Forde, Alex Loven, Whitney Carter, Probese Leo, Bryan Blaylock and Pi Praveen

Graduating students Marley Peters, John Brown, Yewande Forde, Alex Loven, Whitney Carter, Probese Leo, Bryan Blaylock (with Ronga) and Pi Praveen gather on the Law School lawn. Photo by Julia Davis

May 18, 2023

Graduates and their guests will gather Sunday for commencement at the University of Virginia and the School of Law. As the community prepares for the celebration, read more about the Class of 2023 and their achievements in the stories below.

Graduate Profiles and Career Accolades

Yoosuf-Akinlaja Tapped Wit and Grit to Accomplish His Goals
Mustapha Yoosuf-Akinlaja knew he wanted to be a lawyer since his childhood days in Nigeria.

Future Prosecutor Younger Brings Urgent Drive and Open Mind to Manhattan D.A.’s Office
Adam Younger was inspired to go to law school after witnessing the 9/11 attacks up close and watching his father plead guilty to a tax crime.

22nd Powell Fellow To Assist Survivors of Human Trafficking
Helen Song will assist survivors of human trafficking as the 22nd Powell Fellow in Legal Services.

Cherian Named Equal Justice America Fellow
Ruby Cherian will serve as an Equal Justice America Fellow at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond.

Merkel Named Equal Justice Works Fellow
Mary Merkel will serve as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at The Bronx Defenders in New York.

Resilience Gained in the Marines Serves Blaylock Well
Service in the U.S. Marines taught combat veteran Bryan Blaylock how to pivot in his career and in life.

Peters Stepped Up To Coach Charlottesville High School Volleyball Team
Marley Peters juggled her studies with her new role as head varsity volleyball coach for Charlottesville High School.

Meet 3 Members of the LL.M. Class of 2022
Students in UVA Law’s LL.M. degree program typically have successful legal careers before they even start their studies here. These three were no exception.

15 Grads Planning To Serve in Public Defender Roles
Fifteen members of the Class of 2023 have obtained positions as public defenders or plan to serve in the role after a clerkship.

Students Selected for Federal Attorney Honors Programs
Sujata Bajracharya, Elana Oser and Ariana Smith were chosen to serve in federal attorney honors programs after law school.

Leaders and Award-Winners

Chamberlain Led Virginia Law Review
Scott Chamberlain gave an interview when he was named the editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review in 2022.

Meet Student Bar Association President Desai
Juhi Desai, who at the time was recently elected president of the Student Bar Association, discusses her interests and plans.

Ford Wins Swanson Award
Yewande Ford was this year’s recipient of the Gregory H. Swanson Award, named in honor of the first Black student to attend UVA and the Law School.

Ranjan, Treacy Win 94th Lile Moot Court Competition
Dev Ranjan and Ethan Treacy won the 94th William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition.

Schiff Receives Rosenbloom Award
Molly Schiff received the Law School’s 2023 Rosenbloom Award, which honors students with a strong academic record who have significantly enhanced the academic experience of their peers.

Khalid, Larson, Turnage, Yoon Named Ritter Scholars
Layla Khalid, Max Larson, Jack Turnage and Shinae Yoon were named 2022-23 Ritter Scholars.

Haydary Wins Serpentine Society Honor
The Serpentine Society, a UVA alumni interest group, named Spencer Haydary a 2022 John A. Herring Scholar.

Kelliher Wins International Tax Writing Competition
Neil Kelliher won first place in the International Fiscal Association USA 2022 International Tax Student Writing Competition.

Star Witnesses – Q&As With Students

Supreme Court Experience Fuels Grant’s Interest in Law
Julia Grant discusses her nonprofit work and her rewarding experience with the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

Heguaburo Sees Lawyering as Tool for Equity
Natalia Heguaburo knew she wanted to be an advocate for minority rights but wasn’t sure if law school was the right path — until she watched a UVA Law professor practice his Supreme Court oral argument.

Former Disney Cast Member Kurtiak Channels Creativity at UVA Law
Ryan Kurtiak worked at Walt Disney World as a “Star Wars” villager and grew up wanting to design theme parks. He saw law school as a way to channel his creative energy.

Petty Blooms in Law School
A lifelong love of gardening and working alongside alumni sowed the seeds for Brecken Petty to pursue her interest in environmental law at UVA.

Segars Exits the Law School Stage
Whether performing in an improv comedy troupe or presenting oral argument before a panel of judges, Riley Segars is known for thinking on his feet.

For Shiver, Roads Led to Law School
Jela Shiver discusses how his grandfather’s experience with redlining piqued an interest in property law.

Simper Pursues Interest in International Law
Elizabeth Simper’s undergraduate study on two topics — space policy and international atrocities — stoked a boundless curiosity that led her to study at UVA Law.

Experiencing the Law

Decarceration Clinic’s Busy Year Rebuilding Lives
In the year since the Decarceration and Community Reentry Clinic started, third-year students — including Whitney Carter, Juhi Desai, Tyriek Mack, Anne Reyna, Payal Sampat and Abby Scheper  — have helped free five people imprisoned in Louisiana, launched a program to educate incarcerated people about financial literacy and entrepreneurship, and connected dozens of clients with the services needed to rebuild their lives.

Student Researches Ways To Improve Rural Virginia
Antonella Nicholas co-authored a paper with Professor Andrew Block identifying the systemic causes behind some of the problems facing rural Virginia.

UVA Law Team Places Second in International Tax Moot Court Competition
A team of students — including 3Ls Katrina Meyer and Neil Kelliher, and their coach, Natalie Mauch — placed second in this year’s International and European Tax Moot Court competition.

Clinic Wins Decision in Novel Workplace Discrimination Case
Students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic, including Jacob Smith, won a case on behalf of a client who faced racial harassment from her employer’s family.

Clinic Argues Habeas Case at Supreme Court
The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, comprised of third-year law students, returned to the court in November to determine whether certain federal inmates have recourse to challenge their convictions.

When They Were First-Years

UVA Law Notches Milestones With Class of 2023
Incoming students Christian Diaz-Ritz, Probese Leo, Lauren Murtagh, Samira Nematollahi and Brooke Schafer were profiled in the entering class story.

First-Year Students Receive Virginia Public Service Scholarships
Whitney Carter and Amalia Garcia-Pretelt received the Virginia Public Service Scholarship, a full-tuition award given to students who are pursuing public service careers.

First-Year Law Students Receive Top Scholarships
Leah DeFazio, Chanel Holmes, Lauren Krzystowczyk and Kyle Sanchez are among the Class of 2023’s Karsh-Dillard Scholars.

Skating Into Law School
Aspen Ono was a competitive figure skater and youth instructor before coming to law school.

Incoming Law Student Enters Next Stage of His Career
Trevor Floyd built on his experience in professional theater as an incoming student at UVA Law.

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.

Media Contact

Mike Fox
Director of Media Relations
mfox@law.virginia.edu / (434) 982-6832

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