UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law Student Bar Association (SBA) held its fifth annual Diversity Banquet on Feb. 11 in the Regency Ballroom of the Atherton Hotel in downtown State College. The banquet, with the theme this year of “Bridging the Gap,” honors members of the legal community who have contributed to the furthering of diversity in the field at the collegiate and professional levels.
Speakers for the evening included the SBA Diversity Co-chairs Quandalasha Fambro and Carlos Camandang, as well as Interim Dean James W. Houck and dean designate Hari Osofsky. Both deans thanked SBA for their efforts in putting together the evening and continuing to promote diversity and inclusion at the law school.
The keynote speaker was Penn State alumna Judge Tanya R. Kennedy. Kennedy is a New York Supreme Court justice and former supervising judge of Civil Court in New York County, New York. She is active as a youth mentor in her community, and is a life member and board member of the NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch. Kennedy focused her speech on continuing to bridge the gap for minorities in the legal profession, advising students to remember to reach back across the bridge to help others as they themselves were helped.
“Your job here shouldn’t be to secure a job,” said Kennedy. “It should be to develop a strategic plan to become a social engineer. As a social engineer, you will be empowered to transform lives and bridge the gap in the legal profession. This is an order from the court.”
Following her speech, Kennedy received the Diversity Award for Leadership in the Legal Profession. Several members of the law school community, including students, faculty, and staff also received awards celebrating their commitment to furthering diversity and inclusion at Penn State Law. The achievements and dedications of diverse student organizations and affinity groups, including Black Law Students Association, OutLaw, Latino/a Law Student Association, Women’s Law Caucus, and others were highlighted by SBA President Shekka Drayton, who said the evening was an opportunity to “brag about my friends and the awesome work they do.”
The evening concluded with remarks from Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Amanda DiPolvere, reminding everyone of how far Penn State Law has come with its diversity initiatives, followed by a closing thought from Kennedy.
“The blood that’s in our veins is all the same,” said Kennedy. “We have more similarities than differences, and we celebrate the differences.”