University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law 2018 graduates took to the stage for the 103rd convocation on Saturday, May 12, at Centennial Hall.
Dean Marc Miller opened the ceremony, reflecting on common characteristics that the graduates shared, including their love for pizza and Chipotle, but also the successes that they had achieved through self-empowerment.
“You are doers, you have sustained our community, organizing everything from galas to spirited debates to yoga classes, highly cooperative study groups to keenly competitive trivia nights,” said Miller.
He asked that they continue to do, as they are stepping into their profession at an interesting time for those trained in law.
“You are now the standard-bearers for the rule of law, but please do not confuse the rule of law with the mere defense of the status quo or of power and inequality embodied in existing laws, rules procedures and institutions,” he said. “Your skills and your accomplishments make you more valuable players in solving the world’s most pressing problems.”
Miller quoted current UA president Robert Robbins, who said, “Across programs, our world, and our community, needs us to be and train disruptive problem solvers.”
Graduates were welcomed into the ranks of alumni by Christine Thompson ('01), incoming president of the Law College Association, who recalled her graduation 17 years prior and said that although she couldn’t have determined the career paths that her and her colleagues would take, she knew she felt prepared for her next step and empowered to take it.
“Though you will all go your separate ways, you’ll always be bonded by your experience here,” Thompson said. “Prepared by faculty who teach and admire you. Empowered by the skills you have acquired and confident that you can use those skills to strengthen your community.”
2018 class gift chairs Rachel Dyckman and Sara Wright announced a pledge of 4,451 hours of community service and pro bono work by the graduating class over the course of the next three years. The class gift, “Graduate 2 Service,” continues Arizona Law’s commitment to service, and represented more than 90 percent graduate participation.
Student speakers Benjie Parsalaw (SJD), Mia Hammersley (JD) and Kayla Bernays (JD), who were elected to speak by their peers, all shared their unique experiences at Arizona Law. They shared a common theme of the gratitude they felt for their classmates and knowledge gained.
Hammersley reflected on a moment as a 1L, in Professor Toni Massaro’s class, where Massaro marched around the classroom, taking a step forward, followed by a few steps back, until she faced the classroom and explained how that represented the path to justice: “Slow, long, full of setbacks, often one step forward and two steps back.”
Hammersley said that as law students and as lawyers, they are validated and empowered by the steps forward for justice and, “I have confidence that our collective steps forward will far outnumber our steps back.”
Anna Maria Chávez ('94) delivered the keynote address and asked graduates to step into their new roles as leaders, focus on issues and projects that they’re most passionate about and surround themselves with people who respect their knowledge and support their life vision.
“I’m going to try to convince you that it is not only necessary for you to invest time that you’ve gained here, with this amazing education, but it’s prepared you for this critical role as a catalyst,” she said. “In fact, it has prepared you to be a moral leader in this country, at this time.”
She spoke on the importance of advocating for those who are underrepresented or silenced due to age, gender, economics or ethnicity.
“These are the voices that require all of us to be moral leaders, to insure that they do not go unheard,” Chavez said.