UW Law implements DEI strategic training plan

UW Law is in the process of implementing a model Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic training plan designed to help faculty, staff and students gain a deeper understanding and make improvements in the areas of cultural competencies, recognizing and addressing microaggressions, managing difficult conversations, understanding white fragility, implementing anti-racism strategies and classroom management.

The plan was developed by William Covington, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, and Sellyna Ehlers, director of human resources, equity and engagement, in response to feedback by students, faculty and staff. Mario Barnes, Toni Rembe Dean and professor of law, has reviewed the plan and asked that it be shared with and suggestions sought from key UW Law constituencies.

“We want training to be regularly provided, harmonized and to move the UW Law community towards a collective appreciation of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism,” Covington said.

The strategic training plan is designed to assist the school in meeting Goal 1 of the UW Diversity Blueprint, which focuses on cultivating an inclusive climate, and the UW Law Strategic Plan for Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Multiculturism.

“The strategic training plan is crucial to creating a more inclusive learning experience and improving students’ learning outcomes,” Ehlers said. “This plan is designed to not only give faculty and staff the tools they need to more effectively manage difficult conversations in and outside of class, but also to demonstrate UW Law’s deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Training focuses on different areas of growth each quarter:

  • Autumn quarter: Awareness and wellness
  • Winter quarter: Skill-building
  • Spring quarter: Collaboration and anti-racism

In November, Dr. Isaiah Pickens of iOpening Enterprises presented “How to Stay Resilient and Brave During Challenging Times.” He also shared key learnings from his training as part of the UW Law Discovery Podcast episode, “Fight, Flight or Freeze”

In that episode, Pickens said law students can be notoriously hard on themselves amid the pressure cooker that is law school. That stress manifests in a number of ways, including feelings of imposterism that can be hard to shake. 2020 did not made the experience any easier, but Pickens asserts there are still important approaches that strengthen the mental muscles that foster resilience in the face of difficult challenges.

Approximately 79 faculty, staff and students signed up for the training. Dr. Pickens returned in January to present “How to Deal with Difficult Topics” as part of the new Perspectives course for 1L students.

DEI updates

UW Law is pleased to share the following additional updates, progress and accomplishments on work related to diversity, equity and inclusion in autumn quarter.

Perspectives course

The Perspectives Working Group, chaired by Professor Sanne Knudsen, includes representatives from the faculty, staff and students. After much consideration, the committee recommended that the winter Perspectives course be designed as a speaker series. Students will receive presentations from distinguished external speakers and participate in discussion breakout sessions led by various faculty members. The first class featured guest speaker Dr. Pickens who addressed how to engage in brave conversations while being mindful of wellness.

The course enriches the traditional first-year curriculum by using specific examples to explore how law encodes values that sometimes reflect inequities based on race, gender, ability, class, sexual orientation and other social justice issues. While some of these ideas are already touched on in individual first-year courses, the Perspectives course creates a deliberate space for dedicated reflection and community-minded learning.

The topics covered illustrate simply the many ways in which legal frameworks can be used to perpetuate or help solve complex issues of social inequities, discrimination and injustice in American society. This year, the curricular areas of enrichment align with several of the 1L courses, including torts, civil procedure, property and criminal law.

The committee will resume discussions after winter quarter to review the new design of the course and consider how the course might be improved or expanded for future academic years. The committee will also make recommendations on whether this course and similar courses should continue to be mandatory.

Town hall listening session and recommendations

UW Law held a Town Hall listening session in November to discuss diversity-related issues and concerns. KJ Williams, a veteran consultant to individuals, groups and organizations seeking to improve diversity, equity and inclusiveness, returned to facilitate the meeting.

The Town Hall meetings began last year to discuss diversity-related issues and concerns raised by students at the beginning of winter quarter 2020 in the 1L Perspectives class. The sessions have become an important way to continue our community conversation on these crucial issues. The date for the winter quarter listening session is forthcoming.

UW Law also provided an update on actions taken in accordance with recommendations Williams made following Town Hall discussions in February 2020. These recommendations included strategies and programmatic changes that support efforts to create a safe and welcoming learning and work environment. Read more about how UW Law is implementing these recommendations.

Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DAC-DEI)

DAC-DEI hosts regular meetings on the fourth Monday of each month from 12:30-1:20 p.m. All faculty, staff and students are welcome to join the conversation. This group is charged with providing updates on goals and accomplishments within the law school’s diversity blueprint. This group helps prioritize next steps and critical action needed to help move the school forward. The group also helps create safe space to have open discussions about all things related to diversity, equity, inclusion, as well as how internal and external affairs impact our community.

Diversity Dean open hours

Dean Covington held open hours in December and has scheduled weekly sessions into 2021 to allow students, staff and faculty to drop in to discuss DEI issues.

Anti-racism statement

UW Law recently adopted an anti-racism statement in which Dean Barnes expressed the school’s commitment to anti-racism work. As part of the commitment, Barnes agreed and encouraged faculty and staff to take steps to address racial injustices in our country, and to examine and take action to rectify systemic racism that may be embedded in our own policies and practices and within the greater legal community and legal system. Read the statement.

Community conversations on race

The UW Law Staff Council continues to hold a series of monthly anti-racism reading hours for staff to discuss books, podcasts, movies or other anti-racism resources with colleagues. Staff listen and contribute, as well as share accountability in their anti-racism work that leads to change.

New library books

The Gallagher Law Library recently expanded its collection of books on anti-racism and diversity- and multiculturalism-related topics. The titles include:

Welcoming the largest and most diverse J.D. class

This year, UW Law welcomed one of its largest and most diverse classes thanks to student recruiting efforts, virtual events and new scholarships that enabled the law school to extend additional offers to students of color from across the country.

New funds include the Tamaki Diversity Scholarship and Justice Fund Scholarships and are the result of major gifts intended to increase diversity in the UW School of Law student community. In service of that mission, UW Law offered eight new scholarships in 2020-21 that contributed to a 9% year-over-year increase in students of color among the Class of 2023. Learn more about the class diversity. 

Graduate programs class profile

This year, UW Law welcomed 126 new students to its graduate programs, including 18 concurrent LL.M. and J.D. students.

In total, graduate students represent 26 countries and territories — Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Gambia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela.

Meet the Gregoire Fellows

UW Law welcomed its 2020-21 Gregoire Fellows: Simon Borumand, Neela Brocato, Katie Chang, Antonia Gales, Bailey Higgs, Ramita Kondepudi, Anna Le, Teco Proffitt and Sabrina Suen. Since 2015, the Gregoire Fellows program has attracted diverse and talented students to UW Law and connected them with leading Puget Sound-area businesses, governmental organizations and law firms committed to increasing diversity in the legal profession. The program is a unique partnership between the law schools and the legal community in Washington that works to ensure the legal profession reflects the incredible diversity in our society. Meet the 2020-2021 Gregoire Fellows.

Students provided critical resources to protestors

As thousands took to the streets to express anger and sorrow over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in summer 2020, UW Law students leveraged their legal training and relationships to provide critical resources for protestors. As part of manifold efforts, students distributed educational materials, staffed an information table in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Occupied Protest Zone (CHOP) and served as liaisons between community members and pro bono attorneys. Learn more about students’ work to provide legal resources and facilitate connections.