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Cross-Disciplinary education shaping social justice

April 02, 2019

In her first year at Penn Law, Kiara Vaughn L’18 decided she wanted to to start a business that would connect underprivileged high school students with mentorship and employment opportunities. She knew she needed an education that would prepare her to succeed. Recently, Vaughn shared how her cross-disciplinary education at Penn Law helped her achieve her goals.

Penn Law: Did you enjoy participating in cross-disciplinary programming while matriculating at Penn Law?

KV: Participating in cross-disciplinary programming while at Penn Law — be it through my Non-Profit Administration Certificate at the Fels Institute of Government or at the Law School through the Journal of Law and Social Change and the Detkin Intellectual Property & Technology Clinic — was the highlight of my law school career. If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d probably try to fit even more cross-disciplinary experiences into my law school experience!

PL: Why did you choose the Non-Profit Certificate at the Fels Institute of Government?

KV: I chose to do the Non-Profit Administration Certificate at the Fels Institute of Government because I had decided in my 1L year that I was going to create a company to serve disadvantaged high school students and match them with mentorship and job opportunities. I knew I didn’t have much experience in this area, and that in order to succeed, I would need to understand not only the legal side of creating a business but also the administrative side of running a successful public benefit business. The certificate met my expectations with flying colors — not only did I gain important skills that have helped ensure that my business succeeds, I met my current business partner during my first class at Fels. And after a successful first year, our programming has been acquired by KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools. In particular, our programming will be integrated into the KIPP Dubois Collegiate Academy, the partner school we worked with during our first year. I will be volunteering to help ensure a smooth transition and continued success.

PL: What did you enjoy most about taking non-law classes while at Penn Law?

KV: I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to extend my network. One of the things you learn in Law School is that networking and connecting with people is really important to your success.

I was also able to meet people with different types of skills and get varied perspectives on the concepts I was learning at Fels and in Law School. For example, in one of my non-profit certificate classes, we were talking about starting a business, specifically a corporation. At the time I was also taking Corporations at Penn Law so I came to the Fels class with my own ideas about what went into starting a company. But talking about this topic with students who came at it from different angles, including the government and public interest perspective, really opened my eyes and helped ensure that when I decided to start my own company I would not only focus on the legal side of things, but make sure I was a creating a company that could actually do good.

I also just loved making friends with people in other programs. I had the pleasure of developing some great relationships with students at Fels and I know that after we graduate I will have a whole additional group of friends and network from the Penn Community.