Parrish: Graduation, student excellence and trailblazing alumni

On Saturday, May 8, the Maurer School of Law will celebrate the Class of 2021 in its annual graduation ceremony. The day before, students will have walked across the stage in their regalia and participated in a hooding ceremony as part of a formal, in-person university commencement. The pandemic is forcing us to hold the school’s individual celebration on Zoom, but many of our traditions continue. Family and friends will attend, we’ll hear from student and faculty speakers, each graduate will be honored individually, and we’ve even chosen a talented student to sing the Alma Mater.

Looking back on a very unusual academic year, the positive and can-do attitude of our students, faculty and staff was impressive. While most of our first-year students attended classes in person, many of our upper-division and graduate degree students needed to take their courses online. Although there were hardships and family challenges — and law students, like everyone, are Zoom-fatigued — students stepped up and made us proud. Even in a difficult year, they excelled, and their record of achievement speaks so well for the future of our profession. I don’t have space to list everything, but I felt I would share a few notable highlights from the past few months.

It’s been a remarkable semester. Two of our student organizations received awards at the national level. Our Latinx Law Student Association was named National Chapter of the Year at the 2021 National Latina/o Law Student Association conference, and our Black Law Students Association was named Chapter of the Year for the Midwest Region, the sixth time in the past 10 years BLSA has been honored. Much credit goes to Michael Hernandez ’21 and Erica Cioc ’22 (outgoing and incoming LLSA presidents) and Aiyana Godsil ’22 (BLSA president for 2020-21). Individual students received honors this semester, too: Charles Westerhaus ’22 was recently named a Westin Scholar by the International Association of Privacy Professionals; Amika Gosh ’23 was appointed an IU Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow; and Kat Grant ’22 was elected student chair of the National Disability Justice Steering Committee.

Our students provide extraordinary support to Indiana through their work with our live-client clinics, our practicums and our pro bono projects. Just earlier this month, the 7th Circuit granted a habeas corpus petition argued by Kaitlin Willbanks ’21, a student in our federal habeas litigation practicum under the direction of professor Seth Lahn and adjunct professor Michael Ausbrook. In Roderick V. Lewis v. Dushan Zatecky, 20-1642, persuaded by Kaitlin’s advocacy, the court held that the petitioner had received “not merely inadequate assistance of counsel, but a failure of representation so serious that counsel ha[d] entirely failed to function as the client’s advocate.” As another example, our Public Interest Law Foundation, led by Maggie Bott ’22, set records with innovative fundraising events to support students in unpaid, volunteer, public service and pro bono summer jobs.

Our students also made us proud in national appellate advocacy, trial and negotiation/transactional competitions. The school’s team in the prestigious Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition made it to the semifinals, besting such schools such as the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia and the University of Texas. Three of its members, Dakota Coates ’21, Rachel Myers ’21 and Olivia Potter ’22, were among the top 50 oralists in the region. Professor Asaf Lubin and adjunct professor Lane McFadden coached and coordinated the teams.

Rita Xia ’21 was selected as best oralist in the Global Antitrust Institute’s Invitational Moot Court Competition at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Coached by professor Shana Wallace, Rita, along with Justin Snyder ’21 and Jonathan Sussler ’21, also won the award for the best brief in the competition. Kacey Cook ’21 won oral advocacy honors in the Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition at Pace University, one of the largest competitions in the nation. Liam Williams ’21 took top oralist honors in the Chicago region in the Saul Lefkowitz International Trademark Association Moot Court Competition. And Madalyn Clary ’21, overseen by professor Mark Need, was runner-up in The Closer, a national transactional law competition held each January at Baylor Law School (this is the second year in a row we’ve made the finals).

Back in Bloomington, our internal spring competitions helped students hone their lawyering skills. This year’s finalists in our International Arbitration Moot Court Competition were Alexa Wilson ’21, Monica McCoskey ’21, Samira Suleiman ’21 and Janelle Shankin ’21. Natalia Rivera ’21 and Willow Thomas ’21 won the Internal Trial Competition. And Elizabeth Adams ’21, Mary Kate Hetzel ’21, Amanda Marino ’22 and Natalie Shepherd ’21 were the finalists in the school’s Sherman Minton Beginner Trial Competition.

Of course, there was more — too much to list here. Our journals put on tremendous symposia and published important articles; student organizations hosted a range of speakers and unique events over Zoom; and students worked closely with faculty doing the important work of our research centers. Students excelled in other ways, too. As just two recent examples, professor Khagesh Gautam ’21, an SJD candidate, co-authored “The Law of Emergency Powers,” a book that had the distinction of being launched at an event with four Indian Supreme Court justices. Michael Froedge ’22, Carsten Parmenter ’22 and Caroline Sebastian Riley ’22 in mid-April were elected to the editorial board for the summer symposium issue of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. And in the “other news” category, Conor Delehanty ’23 headlined at The Comedy Attic in Bloomington, getting a head start on the lawyer jokes he’s bound to hear the rest of his career.

These students represent a sampling of student accomplishments from just the last few months, against a backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic. I look forward to great things from our students in the years to come. I hope too that you’ll join me in congratulating the entire Class of 2021 on their upcoming graduation and on a job well done.


Three years ago, we installed banners outside Baier Hall honoring six notable and trailblazing alumni. As we prepare for the reopening of the campus and welcoming new students, we will be installing six new banners honoring the memory of additional pioneering alumni: Hon. Shirley S. Abrahamson, ’56, Wisconsin’s first woman Supreme Court justice and first female chief justice; Hon. Rodolfo Lozano, ’66, the first Hispanic federal judge appointed in Indiana; Masuji Miyakawa, 1905, the school’s first Asian American graduate and the first Japanese American admitted to the bar in the United States; Rapheal M. Prevot Jr., ’84, a distinguished sports lawyer, the youngest chair of the board of visitors in the school’s history and namesake of our Black Law Students Association Barristers’ Ball; Hon. Flerida Ruth Pineda-Romero, ’55, a prominent scholar and Supreme Court justice in the Philippines; and Wendell Willkie, 1916, the school’s only presidential candidate and the name partner of the still well-known international firm, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. Be sure to take a look at them the next time you are on campus.•

Austen Parrish is dean and James H. Rudy Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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