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Eye on DEI
USC Gould School of Law

Friday, February 10, 2023

Symposium co-sponsored by USC Gould and LSAC RISE Alliance highlights coalition building to encourage diversity within legal profession
By Leslie Ridgeway
Gould Associate Dean Nickey Woods
Gould Associate Dean Nickey Woods (Photo by Andrew Svistunov)
Continuing efforts to develop a culture of diversity and inclusion in law schools and the legal profession took center stage at “Intersectionality and Social Movements: A DEI Tool for Coalition Building in Legal Education,” a recent symposium co-sponsored by the USC Gould School of Law and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) RISE Alliance. The Jan. 13 event at the law school was orchestrated by Dr. Nickey Woods, USC Gould’s associate dean for student affairs, diversity, equity and inclusion.
The symposium came together after a discussion with Woods and Jay Austin, executive director of the RISE (Reaffirming Individuals Supporting Education) Alliance, a national center within LSAC. The symposium provided a broader perspective on diversity efforts within the legal profession and shed light on creative thinking about solutions, Woods said.
From right: USC Gould Dean Andrew Guzman, PSU Dickinson Dean Danielle Conway, and Jay Austin, executive director, RISE Alliance
From right: USC Gould Dean Andrew Guzman, PSU Dickinson Dean Danielle Conway, and Jay Austin, executive director, RISE Alliance
“Diversifying legal education and the legal profession benefits everyone, and building coalitions among students, faculty and staff is a powerful way to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” she said. “There is still so much work to be done, but there is no ‘one right answer’ or ‘one size fits all.’”
Following a fireside chat with USC Gould Dean Andrew Guzman, Austin and Dean Danielle Conway of the Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson Law School, TaWanda Hunter Stallworth, program manager of Dickinson Law’s Antiracist Development Institute led “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession: An Iterative Approach,” a session focused on the ADI’s collaborative efforts and development of a book series that examines how racism is embedded throughout the legal academy. Woods is author of a chapter in the second volume of the series on innovative pipeline programming and USC Gould’s partnership with USC Athletics, she said.
TaWanda Hunter Stallworth, Penn State Dickinson Law
TaWanda Hunter Stallworth, Penn State Dickinson Law
Other presentations were given by Vice Dean Anahid Gharakhanian and Associate Dean Natalie Rodriguez of Southwestern Law School, on their efforts to end exclusionary admissions practices, and Woods, along with Kathy Northern, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the Ohio State Moritz School of Law, on outcomes from DEI fellowship programs at both law schools. A student panel on activism and coalition building, featuring students from USC Gould, UCLA, Loyola Law School and Southwestern Law School was followed by a closing keynote address by Gould Professor Jody Armour.
While all the presentations were impactful, Woods was very impressed with the student panel, which shared discomforting incidents of “othering,” underrepresentation and not being acknowledged by correct pronouns. 
“They spoke with conviction about their experiences, and also spoke to how we can be better in meeting their needs. I felt inspired after that panel,” Woods said. “We can assume to know what students need and want based on our own experiences or what we think is best, but at the end of the day, they know better than any of us because they are in the moment, right now.”
USC Gould Assistant Dean Akita Mungaray
USC Gould Assistant Dean Akita Mungaray
Spring 2023 DEI events include the California Law 8th Annual Pathways Summit in mid-February, hosted by USC Gould, as well as a series of DEI-related events that correspond with recognition months including Black History Month and Women’s History Month, coordinated by Akita Mungaray, assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and director for student affairs at USC Gould. Woods and Mungaray are also working with Gould’s affinity group leaders to explore Gould’s principles of community to ensure Gould’s law school community is actively reflecting those principles.

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