In 1973, the Illinois legislature established Southern Illinois University School of Law to serve the public good. Nearly 50 years later, we are steadfastly committed to our mission to transform our students into the lawyers and community leaders of tomorrow, empowered with the knowledge and skills to improve their communities.

I began serving as dean in summer 2020, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, the pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges. And as we continue to navigate it, we also find ourselves in a national reckoning as we grapple with racial injustices, economic unrest and political upheaval.

With every challenge comes opportunity. As I lead a law school during these times, I am reminded daily that civic awareness and engagement are important during times of both order and unrest. We impress upon our new students that a lawyer’s professional reputation begins in law school and that it is never too early to practice exemplary professionalism.

Our dedicated faculty work each and every day to educate our students about professional values, both inside and outside the classroom. They continually demonstrate to our students what it means to be a professional, ethical attorney.

Law Day is a national day to celebrate the rule of law. Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize that the rule of law is necessary as we live up to the ideals of this country. Democracy is not a given. It depends on the confidence in law and lawyers.

The pandemic took us by surprise. We learned how to be flexible and resilient. We embraced change and innovation, while staying true to our values. Through the use of technology, we have learned new ways to solve problems and expand our reach to those in need. As leaders, we are growing and learning as we encourage others to do the same.

Last year, the faculty publicly declared that Southern Illinois University School of Law is an anti-racist institution, committed to principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, both in the profession of law and society at large.

We model and value inclusivity as we welcome and actively recruit students, staff and faculty who want to work and learn in an environment that nurtures and respects diversity in all its forms, including race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, ethnicity, national origin, culture and physical ability.