Law school is a transformative experience. For first generation professional students, the transformation can be particularly intense, and even isolating, as they typically do not come from a community with a full understanding of the unique challenges and pressures the First Generation student will face as she negotiates law school and her early career. The USC First Generation Professionals Program was established to support First Generation students and young alumni in the transition to professional life, to provide this constituency with resources and Trojan connections that will allow them to better navigate the special challenges First Generation students face. The difficulties First Generation professionals face are real; however, the role they can play in the law school community is invaluable. Here, at USC Gould, we see the first generation professional's perspective as a source of strength as, properly supported, they can provide invaluable insight into what it means to ethically practice law and, further, what is required to allow the law to achieve it's full social justice potential.
The USC Gould First Generation Professionals Program attends to two goals: to allow First Generation professional students to integrate their unique perspectives into the law school experience, and to provide these students with the assimilation resources necessary to make full use of the USC Gould Trojan experience. To this end, the USC First Generation Professionals Program is administration-sponsored, centrally-organized and content-based. Our core offering is a speaker series, organized each year, that provides a safe space for discussion of issues of specific interest to First Generation Professionals. Additionally, our alumni-peer network provides First Generation Professionals with real life experienced-tested solutions to address issues of class, race or immigration-related bias and insensitivity that may surface in law school and practice experiences. We also sponsor a student support network and study groups as part of our programming. Our goal is to provide early, meaningful intervention to assist our students and young alumni in managing the First Generation Professional's experience.
At USC Gould we recognize that First Generation Professionals, more than other young professionals, have early educational and practice experiences that fundamentally shape their relationships to other legal professionals and the law. Our goal is to make these early experiences empowering rather than alienating on balance. Our goal is to ensure that these early experiences are community-enhancing for students rather than alienating. Our program ensures that First Generation Professionals have access to the resources that will allow them to contextualize early defeats, recognize early victories, and reckon with the often profound ethical choices that are raised by class, race and immigration status. Our aim is to help our legal scholars develop a professional identity that comfortably grounds them in their chosen profession and, simultaneously, integrates any desired ethnic, working-class or immigration-related understandings that are key components of their identities. Our view is, that by providing First Generation Professionals with these resources, they have the confidence to make full use of the USC Gould experience and, along the way, provide essential enriching insights to the fellow students that study alongside them.