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Alumni Affinity Groups: The Ties That Bind

May 08, 2024

2022 Reunion Weekend - Penn Carey Law Black Alumni Association
2022 Reunion Weekend - Penn Carey Law Black Alumni Association

Penn Carey Law alumni affinity associations maintain community after Law School.

Offering a meaningful way for alumni to stay connected, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s nine alumni affinity associations bring together Penn Carey Law graduates with shared interests, identities, or affiliations. These groups allow alumni to build life-long connections through networking and volunteer, educational, and social activities and extend the close-knit community that our alumni experienced on campus into their post-graduate lives.

When Adam Tsao L’17 was asked to revive the Asian Alumni of Penn Carey Law (AAPCL) affinity group in 2020, he wanted to create something that would have wide resonance within the Law School community, stretching across generations and geographies.

“The first event that I put together was the Lunar New Year event,” Tsao recalled, “just because it’s such a significant cultural event for a large variety of different Asian and Pacific Islander-affiliated folks.”

From this initial Zoom meeting, Tsao and co-president Cecilia Liu LLM’13, L’15 have created an active and growing organization with alumni participants from around the world.

One of the purposes of these associations is to provide an outlet for alumni to offer their knowledge and share their experiences with current students and younger graduates working their way up the career ladder.

“The need for mentoring and support doesn’t end just because you graduated from law school,” observed Folasade Famakinwa L’21, who serves as secretary of the Penn Carey Law Black Alumni Association. “At all stages of our careers, we all need mentors. We all need support.”

The Black Alumni Association has been engaged in this work for a long time. They collaborate closely with the Penn Carey Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA), often hosting joint events that connect past and present students. These events include the annual Sadie T.M. Alexander conference, as well as regular mixers where alumni join students in a social setting.

Astonique Robinson L’25, who serves as BLSA’s Alumni Relations chair, appreciates the insights graduates share with current students. “For a number of Black law students, we will be the first lawyers in our family,” she said. “It’s nice to have something that gives you the opportunity to talk to someone from the same law school that you went to, that may have had the exact same professors, may have done the same journal, may have been on the same clinic.”

For Robinson and other students, the hard-earned wisdom alumni share helps them identify how to pursue their own career paths, from approaching course selection to finding the right internship.

Providing this guidance motivated Denny Shupe L’89, president of the Penn Carey Law Veterans Alumni Association (PCLVAA), to get involved. Shupe, who served 23 years as an active duty and reserve Air Force pilot, is committed to helping soldiers transition to civilian life. This includes facilitating veteran students’ engagement with the greater Law School community, identifying community service opportunities, and helping them launch their careers. Given his own experience, Shupe has a clear understanding of the benefits and skillsets veterans bring to the workplace.

“For the most part, when they get into private practice, they have advantages over others,” Shupe noted when speaking of veterans. “They’ve worked in highly pressured environments before. They have had to work with other people before and get people working together on a team.”

The AAPCL, meanwhile, is committed to building out its own mentorship program. “Diversity continues to be a challenge in the workplace, especially in a more traditional workspace like so many law firms,” Tsao said. Liu elaborated on the scope of the challenge and mentioned that Asian representation among associates was stronger than at the partnership level, owing primarily to high attrition rates.

“When the leadership does not quite look like you, it’s harder to seek mentorship and build connection,” she explained.

To remedy the issue, the AAPCL hopes to build bridges across generations, connecting alumni who are beginning their careers with older graduates who have established themselves professionally. They also intend to work more closely with the Law School’s Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) to offer guidance to current students.

Aside from providing mentorship, alumni affinity associations host educational and social events aimed at fostering community. In 2023, for example, the AAPCL hosted a panel on careers in legal innovation with chief innovation officers from major law firms. Meanwhile, the Veterans Alumni Association has held events in conjunction with the Penn Carey Law Veterans Club, including a recent Veterans Day conversation featuring former Congressman and Marine officer Conor Lamb C’06, L’09.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Development and Alumni Relations office at

Learn more about available Penn Carey Law alumni affinity associations.