Mary Wood

Law school—where people of different stripes come together to learn—“was the place where I challenged others’ thinking and they challenged mine,” orientation speaker Dasha Smith Dwin ’98 told the Class of 2019.

Dwin, now an executive with global investment and advisory firm GCM Grosvenor, splits her time between New York City and Chicago, after having previously worked for Time Warner and international firms. At Grosvenor she serves as a managing director, a member of the Office of the Chairman and chief human resources officer.

Dwin is a third-generation college graduate from a working-class neighborhood in Denver. She said she was able to attend good schools thanks to lawyers who fought for integration, and wanted to be a part of a profession that could enable that kind of change and social justice. So after earning her B.S. in finance at Georgetown University, she chose UVA Law.

Dwin recalled that her law class was one of the most diverse in school history at the time. But the class was not as unified initially as it could have been.

“We learned to value each other over the course of three years,” she said, urging the new students to take that step from day one.

“As you start your law school career,” she added, “seek out people who are different than you: different ethnic background, different gender, different politics or sexual orientation, a different socioeconomic background. Get to know them, understand them, embrace them. This will not only make your educational experience better, it will make your life experience more rich and meaningful. These people will be lifelong friends.”

In her work at Grosvenor, Dwin helps manage the day-to-day firm operations and is responsible for human capital management, investor relations, corporate social responsibility, diversity and administration functions. She said the financial services industry doesn’t just pay lip service to including people from different backgrounds; diversity is vital.

“It would surprise most people to know that in financial services the convergence of diversity and broader challenges of society are on display,” she said. “Simply put, diversity is a competitive differentiator. My work enables me to have a voice on this very important matter.”

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