2022 graduates of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law took to the stage for convocation on Saturday, May 14, at Centennial Hall.
Dean Marc Miller opened the ceremony, asking graduates to not only spend the day celebrating and reflecting on how they got to this point but also to look forward to what they will do, where they will go and how they will put their new powers to use.
“Your generation of legal professionals will be called upon to imagine and then shape justice. In new and complex ways, from local to global, and in ways both physical and digital,” said Miller. “Your generation of policy makers and social influencers are now facing and will, for the foreseeable future, face enormous social, economic, political, and environmental challenges.”
Miller closed by asking graduates to do three things:
First, that they insist on the search for truth.
“The truth tethers us to each other in ways that falsehoods cannot,” said Miller.
Secondly, that they demand the ends of justice. Not by confusing the rule of law with defending the status quo but to recognize the power inequality embodied in existing laws, rules, and institutions and challenging and improving it. Finally, they continue to stay engaged.
“The world is changed by those who show up. It is one of life's subtle truths. Show up for your clients and coworkers. Show up for your community, as you figure out how to best serve it. Show up for your friends in distress as well as in their times of celebration,” said Miller.
Graduates were welcomed into the ranks of alumni by Donald W. Powell (’72), incoming president of the Law College Association (LCA). He shared five fundamental principles that he has learned since he graduated from University of Arizona Law 50 years ago: Protect your character and ethics, they define you. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Volunteer, not only to help others but also yourself. Attack life with positivity and by keeping a youthful spirit, no matter your age. Live with dignity and do so by remaining humble and treating others respectfully.
2022 class gift chair and Student Bar Association president Rachel Romaniuk announced the graduates support of Arizona Law’s Advocacy Program and its “A New Day In Court” initiative by pledging $10,000.
Student speakers Carmen A. Mestizo-Castillo (SJD), Leonard Mukosi (SJD), Jeremy R. Jones (MLS), Daniel Bowman (JD) and Bridget K. Feldmann (JD), reflected on their time at University of Arizona Law and encouraged each other to use their degrees to do good and make a positive impact in the future.
“If those of us who have been trained in law are not willing to step up, then who will?” asked Bowman. “You can only ignore a wildfire for so long but eventually your house will burn around you. However, if we all start hearing and douse the flames around us, we can have an impact that would otherwise be impossible.”
Feldmann, shared her family's story, recounting how in the 1920’s her great-grandparents fled a violent and anti-Semitic Poland by boat and were denied entry into the United States when they arrived in New York. Rather than returning the boat to Poland, the captain took them to Cuba, where her family was granted refuge. Feldmann shared that as someone pursuing a career in deportation defense, she has told the story of her family countless times, but only until recently did she begin to think about another character in the story – the captain of that boat.
“In a position of relative comfort, rather than being a bystander to suffering, the captain of the boat chose to stand in solidarity with people in crisis,” said Feldmann. “How will you use the degrees you earn today to prevent harm in the world? When faced with archaic and destructive systems that do not serve the marginalized or our collective futures, how will you respond?”
Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (’01), citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and CEO and attorney for the Association on American Indian Affairs, delivered the keynote address. O’Loughlin, a graduate of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) program reflected on her time as a student and how it allowed her family to heal from their past. All her ancestors' sacrifices led to her being able to obtain an IPLP JD so that she could make it her life’s work to be a voice for those who need one, help others heal, teach institutions how to be accountable and lay down the foundation for those who will continue to do the work after her.
“We must always work to make everything, all the things, better. The only good thing about history is that we do better than our history and learn to overcome the arrows it slings our way. I rely on my elders and ancestors to guide me. They always told me my job was to merely stand on their shoulders, and reach and do better than they could, and better than they ever knew could be done,” said O’Loughlin. “Use your voice, vote, use your superpowers to do good and find those shoulders to stand on.”
O’Loughlin was presented with the University of Arizona Alumni Association's Professional Achievement Award (UAAA), for her significant prominence in her field. University of Arizona Law alumni Rita Meiser (‘76), was presented with the UAAA Distinguished Citizen Award, and the Honorable Rosemary Marquez (‘93), received the UAAA Public Service Award.
JD graduates Amber Morning Star Byars and Dillon Dobson were both named co-winners of the 2021-2022 Native American Student Affairs (NASA) Outstanding Graduate Service Award and Outstanding Graduate Academic Award. They were awarded during the NASA graduation ceremony for their outstanding academic achievements, leadership and dedication to the University of Arizona Wildcat community, and contributions and service to tribal communities.