More than 100 under-represented undergraduate students and graduate students attended the Rutgers Law Minority Student Program’s Fourth Annual Pre-Law Diversity Conference on January 30. Rutgers Law School faculty, staff, students and alumni from both Rutgers Law locations worked together to provide the conference attendees with invaluable guidance on the law school admissions process, the law school experience and the legal profession.
The conference was organized by Assistant Dean of the Minority Student Program Rhasheda Douglas.
Launched in 2018 in Camden, the conference was created with the goal of increasing the number of under-represented law students, including Black, Latino, Asian, LGBT, and disabled students who matriculate at a law school. While several of the conference attendees have gone on to matriculate at Rutgers Law School, including two attendees, Eric Garcia and Pati Candelario, who will be graduating this spring and clerking with Justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court, the goal of the conference is to help under-represented matriculate to whichever law school they apply to.
Studies indicate that many under-represented law students are the first in their families to attend law school, and as a result, they are greatly challenged by the rigorous law school application process and LSAT preparation. True to the school’s core values and strong leadership, Rutgers Law School is the first law school in the Delaware Valley to offer a Pre-Law Diversity Conference to address this need. Since its launch, the conference has been attended by close to 400 under-represented students.
This year, the conference kicked off with inspiring remarks from keynote speaker, Wali Rushdan II RLAW ’12, who is an attorney in the commercial litigation department of Fox Rothschild LLP's Wilmington, Delaware office and a leader who mentors young men and aspiring attorneys from underserved communities.
Student participants also were greeted by the Co-Deans of Rutgers Law School, introduced to the school’s signature post-admissions Minority Student Program, and treated to a mini law school lecture by Co-Dean Kimberly Mutcherson. Students also heard from Rutgers Law School students, alumni, and engaged in small group discussions with Rutgers Law faculty and staff on how to prepare compelling personal statements for their law school applications.
Students who attended the conference gave positive feedback, including:
“Most informative LSAT conference. One of the best conferences I’ve experienced. I am very grateful. Saturday well spent”
“This was amazing! It was very informative. LSAC, personal statement workshop and the law student panel were great!”
“Thank you very much, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the sessions and am grateful for the opportunity to attend. I enjoyed the Torts class as it gave a glimpse of what we could experience if we're accepted to law school!”
The conference is just one of the pipeline programs hosted by Rutgers Law School in Camden.
Douglas has also worked closely with alumnae Carmen Day ‘20 and Ayisha Scales ’20 on hosting an annual Pre-Law Symposium for high school students from the Camden area. The Pre-Law High School Symposium was launched in the fall of 2019, and it has entailed mock trial exercises, a Know Your Rights workshop, and a law student panel. In the fall of 2020, the Symposium virtually welcomed 20 high school students to learn more about law school.
Douglas also has worked with faculty, staff and student leaders who are part of the Law School’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) Working Group, which was created in 2018 to further promote inclusivity and cultural appreciation among law students in Camden – through a series of talks, events, and leadership development programs.
The (DIB) Student Leadership Committee hosted Culture Week, a weeklong event that included programs on various cultures and often omitted historical events concerning minority populations and DEI topics, such as micro-aggressions. Culture Week concluded with a recipe swap in which students, faculty and staff shared recipes that reflected their heritage, including dishes from India and the Philippines.
Through the Law School’s Professionalism Hour, 1L Camden students have participated in a series of trainings designed to help promote a welcoming and inclusive law school environment, such as workshops on cultural competency, implicit bias, microaggressions and imposter syndrome.
Camden’s MSP hosted its annual fall forum titled “Black and Latinx Prosecutors – Representation Matters” and visitors were lead prosecutors on their roles in the current civil rights movement, including Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae, RLAW ‘94 and Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, RLAW ‘96. The prosecutors spoke about their careers and the legal journeys they took to get there.
In December, Dean Douglas recognized recently-graduated MSP students with a virtual poetry slam celebrating the Harlem Renaissance.