Echoes of community at third annual Convocation
At the start of Penn State Dickinson Law’s third annual Convocation, Dean Gary S. Gildin reminded everyone what “convocation” means—to assemble, to call together. With that summons, Dean Gildin brought forth the class of 2020 inside Lewis Katz Hall. Seventy-four students who hail from 26 states and five foreign countries were formally inducted into the Dickinson Law family.
Dean Gildin opened the September 22 Convocation ceremonies espousing the importance of the Dickinson Law family. “One of Dickinson Law’s four core values is community,” Dean Gildin said. “Lawyers lead and serve the communities in which they learn and practice law. At Dickinson Law, every single person is rooting for you and supporting your success, but today is the singular moment in which all of the elements of the Dickinson Law community join to witness your formal written acknowledgement of the professional obligations as students of the law.”
“Today represents the calling together of the entire Dickinson Law family,” Dean Gildin noted, as he highlighted the singular gathering of faculty, staff, students, Board of Overseers and alumni before introducing keynote speaker Judge Alicea Elloras ‘99, appointed to the Kings County, NY family court bench in April 2015.
Elloras delivered a matter-of-fact speech about hard work, and balancing career and life. The judge, who previously served as a staff attorney with the New York City Administration for Children's Services and clerked in the New York State Supreme Court, didn’t shy away from describing her hurdles in being accepted to law school. After lackluster LSATs, she was waitlisted at several law schools, including Dickinson Law, but she plowed ahead to fulfill her dream.
“If you’ve had struggles and hard times, hard work and perseverance do work out in your favor,” Elloras said. “Don’t give up.”
She went on to praise the first-year courses at Dickinson Law that immediately begin to prepare students for their law careers.
Elloras concluded by urging the new law students to embrace each other and the community that has welcomed them. “When you leave here, I would encourage you to give back,” Elloras said. “Mentor someone. Offer someone an internship or a job when you get to that capacity. The Law School can only be as successful as we make it. This place is special,” she added. “The way we keep it special is by giving back.”
The class of 2020 already has proven its commitment to giving back through a long list of volunteer organizations students are associated with including Habitat for Humanity, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Cancer Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels and many other nonprofits. “You brought the service ethos to Dickinson Law,” Dean Gildin said as he acknowledged the new class’s philanthropic endeavors.
In addition to a vast service history, the first-year class boasts a Bronze Star Medal Winner, an AmeriCorps fellow, several Eagle Scouts, a softball coach, a vintner, a surgeon, a documentary filmmaker, an engineer, a Marine, an Army intelligence officer, a marathon runner, a math tutor and a rich tapestry of other characteristics.
The class of 2020 is rich with diversity, too. More than 52 percent are first-generation graduate students, nearly 29 percent are first-generation college students and 16 percent self-identify as members of the LGBTQ community.
Michael Kwon selected Dickinson Law after attending an open house and meeting several professors and staff who “walked the walk. Starting with the admissions team, everyone seemed genuinely concerned about students,” Kwon recalled. Kwon, who previously worked in various IT capacities before starting his own tech company, praised Dickinson Law for its attention to its students. “I was humbled when several professors knew my name and reached out to me before I knew who they were, and the second-year and third-year students were so eloquent and openly shared their experiences. I felt as much at home as I was impressed with the caliber of the Law School.”
“Now that I am in law school, it is the greatest feeling,” Kwon said. “The goal of attending law school may be to become a lawyer, but going to law school and studying law in and of itself is a dream come true for me.”
Giovanna Brackbill of Lancaster, PA praised Dickinson Law’s Practice Greatness mission. “During my first week, I was performing a mock client interview,” she said. “The high expectations of my peers and professors are one of my biggest motivators. We treat each other as respected professionals.”
Southern California native Sarah Zomaya left the sandy beaches of her hometown in Newport Beach to attend Dickinson Law. She admitted the first few weeks of law school were stressful.
“I did not grow up thinking I wanted to be a lawyer,” Zomaya said. “I was not one of those people. But I love the detail, the logic and the intensity of it.”
As she settles in for her first Carlisle fall and winter, she is grateful for the Dickinson Law community. “Everyone here is willing to talk and help. People here are invested in me personally, not just as a student,” she said.
Logan Miller of Lubbock, TX agrees that being a part of the Dickinson Law family is helpful. “It is a lot of work and that’s what everyone tells you but you don’t fully understand until you dive in,” Miller said. “Everyone has been so friendly, which has made it easy to get acclimated.”
The Texas Tech graduate, who majored in supply chain management, said he might pursue a career in intellectual property law. “That seems extremely interesting and would work nicely with my business background,” Miller said, noting he won’t limit his choices this early in his law school journey.
Tanner Jameson, class of 2018, provided closing remarks and described his pride in being one of four third-year students selected to create a training held in June at The Hague, Netherlands for defense counsel and prosecutors practicing before the International Criminal Court. The inaugural program, created by Dean Gildin and Professor Dermot Groome, was a unique collaboration between Dickinson Law and the International Criminal Court Bar Association.
Jameson also praised the military law class he took last spring. “Dickinson Law teams up with the U.S. Army War College to offer to students both at the War College and Dickinson Law the opportunity to take a class that specializes in the study of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That semester, a colonel in the Army JAG Corps who is stationed at The Pentagon taught the class. On the last day of the semester, he handed me a signed letter of recommendation and said, ‘I can’t wait to see you in the JAG Corps.’”
“I don’t talk to you about each of these opportunities to give you a copy of my résumé,” Jameson said. “I talk about each of these opportunities to show you, the newest additions to Dickinson Law, the type of opportunities you will have. Remember, I am just one student with one story. Each of you will have your own story about your time at Dickinson Law.”
Jameson counseled his fellow classmates to always conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism. “The impressions that you’re making on your classmates, professors and alumni—and everyone you meet in this community—will have lasting effects. As you go out and experience your Dickinson Law story, ask yourselves, ‘Am I contributing to this profession? Am I making it a profession of honor that I’m proud to be a part of? Or am I simply making it?’”
(Photo top) First-year Dickinson Law student Giovanna Brackbill signs the Statement on Professionalism during convocation on September 22
(Photo bottom) Third-year student Tanner Jameson delivers closing remarks