Public Service Graduation Celebrates the Class of 2014
The King Hall community gathered for the Class of 2014 Public Service Graduation on April 25, celebrating the 74 members of the graduating class who completed the Public Service Law program and honoring recipients of public service scholarships, grants, and fellowships. The event featured remarks from speakers including Dean Kevin R. Johnson, Professor Cruz Reynoso, and Bradford Adams, Skadden Fellow with Swords to Ploughshares, as well as the presentation of honors including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award.
In her introductory remarks, Kirsten Hill '04, Associate Director of Career Services and Public Interest Career Planning, praised the Public Service graduates for working to bridge the "justice gap" by bringing legal services to those who lack access to the justice system. "Above and beyond their coursework and the other demands of law school, collectively over the past three years they have devoted more than 40,000 hours of service to the courts, to legal aid and defender organizations, and government agencies, in service of those who would not otherwise have meaningful access to our legal system," said Hill.
"This is always a very special event at UC Davis School of Law, because the Public Service graduation honors the students who really exemplify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s character," Dean Johnson said in his remarks. "They turn words into action, and action for justice."
Dean Johnson introduced Professor Reynoso, who spoke of his experiences of a lifetime of public service, from his successfully petitioning the U.S. Postmaster General to bring mail service to the rural barrio where he lived as a child to his recent investigation of the death of a Woodland farmworker who was killed by Yolo County sheriff's deputies. He talked of the progress he has seen in terms of civil rights and the increasing diversity of the legal profession and of the many challenges still facing society. He encouraged the Class of 2014 to remember the "standard maxim for a free society" invoked by Abraham Lincoln and the need to work for social equality.
Bradford Adams, who provides legal aid to veterans as an attorney with Swords to Ploughshares in San Francisco, talked about how the challenges facing this generation of young lawyers who want to practice public interest law are different from those of previous generations. Public interest law students today typically graduate with much higher educational debt, and thus face more pressure to pursue lucrative areas of practice, Adams noted. In addition, society may be less supportive of unconventional career choices than it was in during the ‘60s and ‘70s, he said. Adams, a veteran of military service in Afghanistan, said that the concepts of teamwork and solidarity that he learned in the military can be useful to public interest law practitioners as a source of inspiration and support.
"I think the idea of solidarity, the idea of teamwork translated into our civilian society is really powerful and invaluable today," said Skadden. "That's something I try to draw on, to direct me and motivate me, and I'm really excited about building and expanding a community that supports that, so I'm here to support you."
The event included the presentation of honors including the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award, an entirely student-nominated and -administrated honor presented to the graduating student or students who exemplified Dr. King's vision and commitment to public service. This year's MLK Award went to co-recipients Abenicio Cisneros '14 and Marcus Tang '14. Also recognized were King Hall Legal Foundation Summer Fellowship grant recipients Hope Alley '16, Abby Bloetscher '16, Johnathon Crook '16, Kevin Dubrall '15, Bianca Duenas '16, Berit Elam '15, Juliana Fehrenbacher '15, Meredith Hankins '16, Kaitlyn Kalua '16, Betty Liu '16, India Powell '16, Zainab Shakoor '15, Roxanne Strohmeier '16, Laura Taylor '16, and Amanda Whitney '16. Carter "Cappy" White, supervising attorney of the School of Law's Civil Rights Clinic, presented the Clinical Legal Education Award to Cody Berne '14. Jason Luu '15 presented the Bill F. Smith'98 Memorial LGBT Rights/Disability Rights Public Interest Fellowship to David Canela '16. Roxanne Strohmeier '16 and Anita Barooni '16 received University of California Human Rights Fellowships, and Bianca Duenas '16 and Hope Alley '16 were honored with John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowships.
Following the Public Service Graduation, students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered at the UC Davis Mondavi Center for a "Farewell BBQ" organized by the King Hall Alumni Association to celebrate the Class of 2014. (The event was moved indoors from the King Hall Courtyard due to rain.) Highlights of the event included the presentation of the King Hall Alumni Association Award by Alumni Association President Gage Dungy '03 and Board Member Alberto Roldan '92 to honorees Irene Williams '14 and Elise Weinberg '14.