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Humans of Penn Law

March 13, 2017

Danielle Sekerak L'18 hare the stories of some of the incredible Humans of Penn Law.
Danielle Sekerak L’18 hare the stories of some of the incredible “Humans of Penn Law.”
Danielle Sekerak L’18 hare the stories of some of the incredible “Humans of Penn Law.”

This blog series from current students examines aspects of #PennLawLife.

By Danielle Sekerak L’18

As the busy season of decision-making approaches, we hope that these blog posts give you insight into our Penn Law community. Inspired by the famous Humans of New York account, this particular blog post seeks to share the stories of some of the most valued and incredible “Humans of Penn Law.”

John Green said, “In the end, what you do is not going to be nearly as interesting or important as who you do it with.” By fostering a supportive and diverse environment, the following men and women in our administration have made law school a richly rewarding experience. 

Hillary Wiesel, Assistant Director of the Toll Public Interest Center and the Director of Pro Bono Programs

“I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of the Penn Law community. I work with the best team in a center that empowers students to engage in impactful pro bono legal service. Let’s also not forget about the candy bowl that is just a few steps from my office! Some of my favorite moments at Penn Law include celebrating students’ accomplishments at the Pro Bono Recognition event, learning about students’ paths to law school, connecting countless students with pro bono opportunities, planning the Sparer Symposium with a fiercely dedicated group of students, and playing laser tag at the Public Interest Retreat.”


Alison Kehner, Legal Practice Skills Lecturer

“I always tell my three daughters that I’m the luckiest lawyer I know. Every day, I come to work and I learn something new — whether it’s in a faculty colleague’s presentation on a legal issue that’s surfaced recently in the news, in class when a student asks a question that pushes me out of my comfort zone, or in a visitor’s lecture on a topic outside my own field. I believe that the way to find fulfillment in any career is to adopt a growth mindset, strive for balance, and approach every assignment as if it’s a puzzle to be solved rather than an item to check off a to-do list. I try hard to practice what I preach at home and work, and teaching at Penn Law has made that easy. My students keep me young, make me laugh, and above all, keep it real. Every day is a new adventure, and I think that everyone who studies, works, and breathes the air in this building senses that it’s a special place.”


Julie Colleluori, Student Affairs Administrator

“The admitted students may not know alum Rick D’Avino, W’77, L’80, but they should Google him. He quite simply IS the Law School’s biggest cheerleader. We hold an auction every year (the Equal Justice Foundation Auction) to help raise funds for our Public Interest Scholars, and Rick D’Avino personally sees to it that that goal is met every year. This past year he took a lunch that I donated to the silent auction and elevated it to the live auction. I was mortified and worried that no one would bid on lunch with me! As it turned out, there was a bidding war and I was purchased for $500 — only $100 less than lunch with the mayor of Philadelphia! I couldn’t have been more honored. I like to try to think that I make even a small difference when I walk through these doors every day — that all of the students will look back on Penn Law fondly and recall that it was not all work. You all can make it whatever you want to make it and we are all here to help, especially in Student Affairs. I look forward to meeting all of you soon!”


Joe Parsio, Circulation and Collection Maintenance, Head of Access Services

“When I think of Penn Law, I think camaraderie — we are all in this together: faculty, staff, students.”


Dimitri Islam, Associate Director of Student Development

“Penn Law culture is about ownership and taking responsibility for our community. My son Naveen takes this credo quite literally: he is convinced he owns the vending machine in Tannenbaum Hall. Whenever I see him sprinting to his prized possession, however, I’m reminded of another mantra — that Penn Law is about family. I am enriched by this sentiment every day during interactions with students, staff, and faculty both at school and in our home. And I feel the impact of this the most when I see little Naveen running in the courtyard, yelling “HELLO STUDENTS!” and shoving vending-machine dispensed M&Ms into his mouth. It’s that feeling that binds us to this place.”


Stephanie Thistle, Assistant Director of Admissions

“When I started at Penn Law it was only supposed to be for a six-month position and now, four years later, I’m still here, and it’s difficult to imagine myself anywhere else. I feel so lucky to have landed in a community that truly does embrace each person that walks through the doors. One of my favorite Penn Law memories is participating in the Equal Justice Foundation Pie Eating Contest. I’m always up for anything, but even I can’t believe how many pudding “pies” I ate! It’s such a fun annual event that gathers students, faculty, and staff in our courtyard for some friendly competition and raising money for public interest work at the Law School. While it may seem odd to have such an event at a law school, that is the norm at Penn Law — not the exception. Collegiality is the cornerstone of Penn Law and is the foundation of everything we do.”


Monica Monroe, Dean of Students

“Being the Dean of Students at Penn Law is a dream job for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with, assist, and advocate for our students. In working with students, I often tell them that to know where you are going, it is often helpful to look back at where you have been. In particular, it helps to take notice of the things that you have done in your life and what were your intention and motivation for doing so. In taking my own advice, I realized that from a very early age, I strongly desired to be a source of support and encouragement for others. Also to my parents’ dismay, I always had to express my opinion on an issue. As you can imagine, attending law school came as little surprise. The qualities of encouragement and advocacy were present early in my life. At the young age of four, I managed to persuade my parents to let me become a cheerleader for our local youth organization, despite there being no squad for my age group. Here at Penn Law, I have the pleasure of combining my long standing interests in advocacy and support for others in my position as Dean of Students.” 

This is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of all of the amazing Humans of Penn Law, but it does showcase some of the most compassionate and interesting members of our community. I hope you get the chance to meet and interact with these individuals. If you plan on coming to Admitted Students Weekend, be sure to say hello when you recognize these friendly faces!