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Community Voices

Community Voices

The University of Pennsylvania Law School community is highly accomplished, adept, and vibrant. Students, Faculty, and Alumni are active contributors in diverse areas of study and practice, and engage in other professional pursuits that add value to the legal profession. Each member brings new and scholarly perspectives that strengthen our learning spaces and facilitate a more worldly view that we purposefully elevate and amplify.

Our Community

Jamie Baum L’22

I identify as a Jew, woman, and a first generation professional. Each part of my identity brings forth its own unique challenges, and each intersection pushes me to both find my voice and to find acceptance within the normative culture. Conversations of and experiences with Antisemitism, religious persecution, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and discrimination are personal to me, and these experiences are motivating factors in my pursuit to understand the protections available through our legal system, which has guided my experience at Penn Law.”

Fernando Chang-Muy JD ’82

All parts of my identity are salient, though depending on the context and situation one characteristic may be more at the forefront than others. With students, my teacher identity is up front - where I am constantly thinking: am I getting the materials across, are they engaged and interested. If I am with a Latinx grassroots organization, relying on my Latino heritage is uppermost in trying to understand their immigration issues and the same applies when I’m with Asian American communities.

Joanna Craig JD ’08

As a biracial (Black and white) woman who grew up in a lower socioeconomic household, I vividly remember attending my first law firm networking reception. I was stunned as I watched my classmates effortlessly connect and make conversation with the attorneys while I felt completely out of place.  As Director of Private Sector Recruiting at Penn, I am pleased to see law firms ramping up efforts to diversify the legal profession. My favorite part of the job is advising students and guiding them as they navigate unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. I do my best to help students feel confident in how they present themselves.

Gabriela Femenia JD’00

I arrived in the US as a kindergartener and was naturalized as a middle schooler. I mostly didn’t identify as an immigrant and emphasized my “Americanness” as much as possible. Recent politics have made me focus much more on that experience and how I can do more to support immigrants’ rights and LatinX advocacy. The emphasis when I was growing up was on assimilation, so I’ve had more practice with code switching than integrating identities, although I didn’t have the vocabulary for it before. Penn Law was already a diverse and welcoming place when I was a student, but there are even more opportunities to find community and ways to express identity now. It has been heartening to watch that evolution as an alum and rewarding to find ways to participate in inclusion initiatives and support student groups like LALSA as a staff member.

Jennifer Fernandez JD’13

I am a woman. I am a Black woman. I am African American. I am Puerto Rican. I am from Queens, New York. I am a mother. I am a teacher. I am a lawyer. I am a first-generation lawyer. I am a social justice lawyer. Because of my identity and experiences, I am deeply familiar with issues such as systemic racism, structural inequality, and the grave consequences of implicit and explicit bias. I acknowledge the privilege of my education and the uniqueness of my perspective, and am committed to helping others, working with students, serving clients and advancing the goals of social justice.

Loran Grishow-Schade ML’21

As a white, non-binary, queer, neurodivergent, non-Native, and disabled person, I’m acutely aware of what these identities mean to me and what they can mean to others. Depending on the context of where I am on campus, different parts of me are routinely asked/forced/invited to shrink, expand, or maintain equilibrium. Sometimes I shrink for safety. Other times I expand for advocacy. Then there are times I maintain balance in spaces of familiarity. Nevertheless, they are always present and in constant dialogue.

Alisha Rodriguez JD’15

I live and thrive at the intersection of my identities – I am Black. I am Puerto Rican. I am woman. I am Caribbean. I am the only daughter of an only daughter. I am an advocate. I am rooted in my cultural and ethnic identities as I navigate everyday life and work. I still wrestle with the idea of bringing my whole self to work and what that exactly entails. It can be a struggle to be vulnerable and authentic in professional spaces. I am proud of my heritage and the way it has shaped my personal life and professional career. My identity as a Black Latina woman impacts the work I do. It informs how I approach service and particularly how I advocate for communities of color.

Chayla Sherrod L’23

As a first-generation, Black woman, the most salient part of my identity is my race. When I enter a classroom, the first thing that comes to mind is, “how many people look like me?” This question has stuck with me throughout my teen and young adult years. Although there is a disparity in representation of Black law students, I’m reminded of my history—particularly the Little Rock Nine—who were courageous and relentless in their push for equity and access to education.

Student voices

AI and Implicit Bias

Veda Handa LLM’22 shares her reflections on the Spring 2022 “Policy Lab on AI and Implicit Bias” with Prof. Rangita de Silva de Alwis.

Historic SCOTUS Confirmation

Penn Carey Law reacts to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States as the country’s first Black woman justice.

Pathways to the Profession: Sadé Stevens L’23

Sadé Stevens L’23 is interning with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Amani Carter L’22 develops new study on Unmasking Coded Bias

Amani Carter L’22 in the Law School’s AI and Bias Lab taught by Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis develops new study on Unmasking Coded Bias

Faculty voices

Child Welfare System Myths

“No, most children in foster care haven’t been rescued from abuse,” writes Prof. Roberts in The Washington Post.

Historic SCOTUS Confirmation

Penn Carey Law reacts to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States as the country’s first Black woman justice.

Abolishing the Child Welfare System

Mother Jones recently published an excerpt of Prof. Roberts’ new book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families — And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World​.

At The Philadelphia Inquirer, Prof. Dorothy Roberts argues that the child welfare system can destroy families

“Home inspections . .  may lead to intensive monitoring that lasts for years, forced separation of children, and, at the extreme, the permanent termination of parental rights,” writes Roberts.

Alumni voices

Championing Health Care Equity and Justice

For Michelle Banker L’10, Director of Reproductive Rights and Health Litigation at the National Women’s Law Center, “reproductive healthcare is healthcare.”

David Perla C’91, L’94 drives diversity in litigation through finance

As a Co-COO at Burford Capital, Perla believes that finance can – and will – play a vital role in diversifying leadership in the legal profession.

Olivia Bethea L’21 argues for intellectual property reparations for African American inventors in forthcoming essay

Bethea’s “The Unmaking of ‘Black Bill Gates’: How the U.S. Patent System Failed African American Inventors” will be published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online.

Wendella P. Fox L’ 76 works to even the playing field for students at the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights

Fox emphasizes empathy and respect in her investigation of civil rights complaints against educational institutions within the Philadelphia Office’s jurisdiction.