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Law School prioritizes holistic support for first-generation professional students

December 23, 2021

Early support for the First Generation Professionals Scholarship initiative includes two endowment contributions from Frank Ghali L’00 and Rory Babich L’89.

Recognizing the vital role that broadened access to a legal education plays in the continued expansion and strengthening of the legal profession, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School set an ambitious goal of raising $9 million for the fund for First Generation Professionals Scholarships. Presently, the Law School is proud to announce the initial investment of over $2.5 million toward the initiative, which promises to help expand resources dedicated to talented students who are blazing a path at the Law School as the first in their families to pursue professional degrees and careers.

“The Law School is not only strongly committed to supporting first-generation students as a means of increasing equity in the legal profession, but also as a means of enhancing legal discourse in our classrooms,” said Ted Ruger, Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “A diversity of perspectives and backgrounds in our student body makes for more inclusive academic discussions and augments the experience of every student and professor at our Law School.”

The $2.5 million milestone derives from an encouraging early commitment from the Law School’s alumni community. Among the donors are two of the newest members of the Law School’s Board of Advisors, Frank Ghali L’00 and Rory Babich L’89, each of whom contributed a generous endowment. For Ghali and Babich, the Law School’s commitment to first-generation professionals feels deeply personal, as both are first-generation law school graduates.

“Penn Law School represents an important inflection point in my life and helped to set me on a career path that has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding,” Ghali said. “It provided me with a new and expanded lens and set of experiences and introduced me to lifelong friends that have enriched my world in so many ways. I’m eternally grateful for my continued connectivity to the Penn community and our family is excited to be able to contribute to someone else’s Penn experience.”

For Babich, contributing to the First Generation Professionals Scholarship fund was an apt way to honor his parents and grandparents, whom he credits with giving him the opportunity to become a first-generation professional himself.

“When I heard about this program, it really hit home as a great way to give back to the Law School, help another student have an opportunity or reduce their financial burden, and honor my parents’ memory,” Babich said. “When I was growing up, I never would have dreamed to have the opportunities that opened up for me as a result of attending the Law School. The Law School, my parents, family, friends, mentors, and so many others have helped put me in a position to give back. For me, that’s always been an important part of the values that my parents instilled in my brothers and me.”

Fortunately, the Law School has already instituted several programs geared toward supporting first-generation professional students’ success. A generous contribution from David Silk L’88 impelled the creation of the First Generation Professionals Fellowship program, which is administered through the Center on Professionalism. The Fellowship, now in its third year, provides valuable professionalism training and networking opportunities for nine students across the Law School.

Moreover, the First Generation Professionals student organization continues to operate as a peer-to-peer means of support and socialization.

“When I first received my acceptance call from Penn Law, I was ecstatic to return home to Philadelphia, but, as the first in my family to attend college and law school, I remained unsure if I would belong. First Generation Professionals (FGP) at Penn Law makes it easy to find that belonging,” said FGP student leader Benno Sauermann L’22. “Through institutional support, vital mentorship, and invaluable friendship, FGP engenders a community that lives long past a first-generation student’s time in professional school. For me and many others, FGP has made seamless the transition to full-time — and first-time — professional.”

Central to this initiative is the Law School’s fundamental dedication to propelling the legal profession forward as our world continues to evolve toward a brighter, more just, and equitable future.

Learn more about the Law School’s commitment to supporting first-generation professional students.