April 14, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 13

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    Latino law students’ group boosts recruitment, ‘Excellence’

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Chicago lawyer and alumnus Jesse Ruiz (J.D.,’95) describes the University Law School’s Latino Law Students Association as a network that enhances a sense of community among Latino students enrolled in the school. This support network has garnered recognition for the Law School, including a nod from the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, a group representing 300 attorneys, judges and law students in Illinois.

    Selected earlier in the academic year as that organization’s recipient of the Excellence in Diversity Award, the Law School continues its outreach efforts to recruit top Latino American undergraduates.

    “We have 56 Latino American students, or about 9 percent of our enrollment of 607,” said Ann Perry, Assistant Dean of Admissions for the Law School. “These students bring new perspectives to the Law School. They enrich the learning experience of all of us.”

    In order to bring the best Latino American students to the school, admissions representatives visit 70 campuses around the country, and the Latino Law Students Association assists in the recruitment efforts by planning events for admitted students and providing information about their group at student organization fairs.

    Ruiz was part of those efforts during his time at the Law School. “We would call students and invite them to visit the campus. In the spring of 1994, we sponsored a party with the Latino students from the School of Social Service Administration. We showed the prospective students a true University-wide Latino community that worked together and enjoyed each other’s company,” Ruiz said.

    Besides encouraging students to attend the Law School, the association members also provide information on scholarships and potential summer employment, as well as tips about Latino events occurring throughout the city.

    “I was the president of the Latino Law Students Association, then called the Hispanic Law Students Association, during my second year in the Law School,” said Ruiz.

    “We brought a number of speakers to the school and sponsored the Cinco de Mayo Wine Mess every year, where we would bring a salsa band to the Greene Lounge and share our culture with the greater Law School community.”

    Also in 1994, the association members held a reception for the first Latino named a federal judge in Illinois, the Hon. Ruben Castillo. Representatives from all the major law firms in Chicago and judges from the Northern District of Illinois attended that event.

    “We had a mariachi band that really added to the festivities, probably the first mariachi band ever to perform at the Law School,” Ruiz said.

    “I believe that all those activities helped make the Latino students feel more a part of the Law School community and also showed prospective students that there was an active support system for them at the Law School,” he added.

    Ruiz said his involvement in the students association, and eventually being involved in the Latino bar association, helped him build a network and support system, which connected him to other Latino lawyers in Chicago.

    “My involvement in diverse student and bar associations helped me make new lifelong friends and opened many doors for me that have helped me in my career,” he said.