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A Penn Law first: Meet future leader Raymond Magsaysay L’22

February 17, 2020

The class of 2022 has the distinction of being the first class to have amongst its cohort three First Generation Professionals (FGP) fellows. The FGP Fellowship, supported by the Center on Professionalism (COP) at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and made possible by a gift from David Silk L’88, provides Fellows with the opportunity to be mentored by established professionals, grow their networks, and provide a channel to give back to future fellows.

Recognizing the effusive dedication and enthusiasm that Raymond Magsaysay radiates, in 2019 COP chose Magsaysay as one of its three inaugural fellows. First-year Penn Law student Magsaysay demonstrated a passion for service, a devotion to achieving equality through a career in the law, and an impressive history of academic achievement, which made him a great addition to the Penn Law community and a great ambassador for the FGP program and fellowship.

The immigrant experience

Magsaysay grew up hearing his father’s refrain that he would die happy if he could just get his family to America. Such was his father’s belief in the United States and the American Dream.

When Raymond was 12, his father fulfilled his dream and brought his family to the U.S. But only fifteen days after his family’s arrival, Raymond’s dad suddenly died. This left Raymond’s mom with the sole responsibility of providing for her three children and helping them navigate life in a new country. The years afterwards were extremely challenging, and the determination Raymond’s family demonstrated in following through with their dream is something that Magsaysay emulates in his own life. It was also during this time that Magsaysay developed his passion for equality.

Magsaysay made sure to take advantage of the opportunities that his new country afforded him and arrived at Penn Law with an already impressive set of experiences and accolades that include a Fulbright and Truman Scholarship. He graduated with honors from Vassar College, where he participated in several student groups while balancing employment and family obligations. On a Fulbright Scholarship after graduating from Vassar, Magsaysay taught his own courses at IE University in Madrid, Spain, where he also received a Master’s in Teaching from the Universidad de Alcalá.

Igniting a passion for the law

It was during Magsaysay’s time at Vassar that he became interested in the law through his study of sociology. “Through sociology,” Magsaysay said, “I learned how my family’s struggles were not merely isolated incidents nor wholly our fault—a sentiment I often heard related to immigrants in the media. I realized that our struggles were systemic realities: that there were—and are—historical and legal forces that limit opportunity for so many.”

Magsaysay engaged his education in action, further cultivating his passion for the law. Exploring opportunities in public policy and impact litigation has allowed him to collaborate with the Obama Administration to spotlight diverse elders’ issues and advocate for prisoners’ rights at the ACLU. Reflecting, Magsaysay says that such varied experiences “lent insight into the centrality of law in life and deepened my empathy, compassion, and resilience.” These are what he hopes to contribute to the legal community at Penn Law.

Approaching a legal education

Magsaysay feels that while he brings a lot of unique experiences to Penn Law, he also found, that “some of my peers and doctrinal classes have a base understanding of what the world is, where I know the world from a very different perspective.”

In pro-bono training, Magsaysay noted that some of his cohort “talked as if we’re removed,” he said, from the realities students and students’ real-world clients may face. “My family has faced housing insecurity. In our training, we were talking about struggling people in Philadelphia who have suffered from terrible landlords. I’ve lived through that and I’m going to ensure my peers and I center such lived experiences in the legal space.”

However, Magsaysay is quick to point out that among his cohort and professors are people devoted to the values he believes in, such as diversity and inclusion. “Penn Law embodies the importance and power of diverse perspectives. The school’s devotion to multidisciplinary work reflects the reality that the law never operates in isolation.”

As an immigrant and a first generation professional student, Magsaysay hopes to use his personal experiences, journey, and participation in the FGP fellowship program as a way to help open up the pathway to the legal profession for future students, with a similar background, who may have ambition, but lack the structured guidance that is crucial to success in the legal profession. “Just as every struggle is collective, so, too, is every story of success and achievement. My motto for life is simple: Solidarity is strength.”