Diversity and inclusion are ongoing priorities at the University of Chicago Law School. Christopher A. Clarke assumed the role of Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the school in May 2019, and has led efforts under the leadership of Dean of Students, Charles Todd, and the Office of the Dean of Students to implement a number of new programs designed to create a more inclusive environment.
“All of the work happening is a continuum around the community we’re enhancing here at the Law School,” Clarke said. “We’re also reaching out to many different groups within the school to understand their needs and engage them in our programming.”
Some of the key D&I events and activities currently offered by the Law School include:
- Pre-Orientation Program: This new program, offered as an optional activity before the Law School orientation for the entire entering class, was designed to expose incoming students to the curriculum, connect them with their peers, and provide additional opportunities for career and professional development. This year, 20 students participated in the inaugural cohort in September 2019, and there are ongoing discussions about how the program will be offered to future students.
- Diversity Leadership Network: Clarke meets with a group of student leaders on a monthly basis to discuss issues related to diversity and inclusion and collaborate on current and future initiatives. Guest speakers are occasionally invited to attend Diversity Leadership Network meetings to address specific topics.
- Weekly D&I emails: All Law School students receive two emails per week from the Dean of Students’ office, and one of those emails highlights law school and campus-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives. The emails include information on upcoming events, awards, and activities.
- D&I website: Part of the main Law School website, the D&I website was recently redesigned to be more interactive and feature frequently updated and engaging content, including alumni profiles.
- Diversity Scholar Speaker Series: This quarterly workshop series focuses on various topics related to D&I. The first workshop, Sophonisba Breckinridge’s Academic & Activity Legacy, was held on Thursday, October 17, and featured Professor Anya Jabour, researcher and author of a book on Sophonisba Breckinridge, the first woman graduate of the Law School. The next workshop, Trans Awareness 101: Exploring the Transgender Phenomenon, focused on the US transgender military ban and was held on Thursday, November 6. The final workshop of the autumn series is the Women in Boots panel, where women veterans will speak about their military experiences. This event will be held on Wednesday, November 20, and is offered in collaboration with the Office for Military-Affiliated Communities.
These are just a small sample of some of the D&I initiatives happening at the Law School, and Clarke envisions more programs for 2020.
“We’re trying a lot of new things and are being very forward-thinking about what we want to do,” Clarke explained. “This is just the beginning. It’s a very exciting time for the Law School.”