Master in Law students and alumni lead diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the Law School and beyond
The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Master in Law (ML) program’s alumni and students are leading the way in advancing equity and justice in their respective fields. The ML is a Penn Law degree launched in 2014 for non-lawyers, providing targeted legal education to industry leaders and accomplished academics, professionals, and Penn students, enabling them to inform their important work by understanding the law impacting their fields.
Eve Higginbotham ML’20
Eve Higginbotham ML’20 is currently the Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at Penn Medicine.
“Following the murder of George Floyd,” Higgonbotham said, “we launched Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT), a strategic initiative aimed at creating a united, antiracist culture in our Penn Medicine community.”
In over 170 focus groups, the initiative has addressed medical education, research, clinical care, community, people, and culture, engaging more than 5,000 faculty and staff members, students, trainees, and administrators so far.
Through ACT’s work, Higginbotham and her colleagues have taken concrete steps to remediate the harmful effects of racism in medicine. For instance, she said, “we eliminated the ‘race correction’ used in calculating estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR),” a factor that has wrongly kept patients of African descent off the waiting list for kidney transplants. Higginbotham pointed to race-corrected eGFR as an example of one of many “structural discriminatory practices” in medicine.
As an ML student, Higginbotham’s favorite class was Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger’s course on Constitutional Law.
“It opened my eyes to this document that fundamentally shapes our daily lives and, in fact, my life’s journey,” she said.
Patricia Mundy ML’20
Ruger’s Constitutional Law course was also a favorite of Patricia Mundy ML’20. Mundy is a veterinary ophthalmic surgeon who also works as a forensic consultant and spearheads diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at her alma maters, Penn Law and Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge. As a member of the Law School’s inaugural Equity and Inclusion Student Advisory Board, she was instrumental in helping to shape how the board informs equity and inclusion initiatives.
Originally from Zambia by way of London, Mundy said that, “as a non-American, I felt it important that I understand the Constitution in order to have a better grasp of what rights citizens have. Having a better understanding of the Constitution has allowed me to be clearer about the two-tier citizenship that exists in American regarding education, policing, human rights, and the health care system.” A course on DEI that Mundy took while completing her ML “opened my eyes to inequalities that I did not know existed,” she said.
Mundy said that her approach to DEI work is best summed up by the adage, “Diversity is being invited to the dance and inclusion is being invited to dance.” Veterinary medicine as a profession, she said, “is woefully inadequate in addressing or even acknowledging racial and socio-economic inequities. This was my starting point when I began doing D&I work.”
Mundy also serves on the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist (ACVO) D&I task force.
“We are currently focused on overhauling the AVCO bi-laws, putting in place safe channels for whistleblower discrimination complaints, and representing members of the college who have faced discrimination in conversations with the board of regents,” she said.
As much as she loves clinical medicine, Mundy says she thinks her DEI work is the most important thing she is doing right now.
“It allows me to be the change I want to see in the world,” she said, “as well as showing other who look like me that they have a voice and that their voice is not only valuable but deserves to be heard.”
Kendrick Davis ML’17
Kendrick Davis ML’17 has made fighting racism his full-time job. A Chief Research Officer at the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, he conducts research that “illuminates, disrupts, and dismantles racism,” he said. After experiencing racism in educational settings himself, Davis said, he has spent the last 15 years arming himself with the tools to dismantle the systems that disproportionately harm students of color.
Davis said that the Law School gave him “the tools and language to look deeper. The ML program gave me the policy chops to be competitive for the American Association for the Advancement of Science Congressional Fellowship Program, and subsequently gave me a front-row seat to developing education policy for then-Senator, now Vice President Kamala Harris.”
Nyron Rouse ML’20
Nyron Rouse ML’20 has also been excelling in the world of research thanks in part to his new ML degree. Rouse currently works as Assistant Director of Sponsored Programs at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
“I am responsible for transformational change management of a growing research organization, focusing on implementing strategies to increase the number of faculty-initiated sponsored projects,” he said.
Rouse serves as the expert in interpreting, explaining, and applying governmental research regulations related to grants and sponsored programs.
“What is most exciting about the work I do is that it truly changes lives,” he said.
Rouse also serves on the board of the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition (SEAMAAC), a refugee-founded organization committed to building community and providing direct services to immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia area.
Arturo Perez ML’23
Arturo Perez ML’23 is pursuing his ML degree while working full time in Penn’s Business Services Division as Associate Director of IT Procurement and Contracting.
“My role is exciting,” he says, “because I can use my passion for DEI to make an impactful difference in my work. As a procurement officer, value creation is maximized when I am able to influence my peers to proactively promote innovation through the introduction of new products, services, and solutions from suppliers that share our commitment to DEI.”
Still a relatively new student at the Law School, Perez has been “blown away” so far.
“My intellectual curiosity has multiplied with just one completed semester under my belt,” he said. “I’m looking forward to exploring during this journey.”