Kamille Dean, the new director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), is looking forward to overseeing and addressing DEI issues head-on this year among the Fordham Law School community.
She reflected upon recently accepting this role at such a pivotal moment in our history—both within the Law School and across the nation—noting how law is at its core.
“It’s important that we’re training the next generation of legal professionals to serve as stewards in our community. By doing so, we’re preparing our students to not only be informed about the law, but to be innovative, as well, in thinking about how to further social justice,” Dean explained. “I’m thankful to be at an institution that is seizing upon this moment and is looking to level up in ways that will increase student engagement, enhance alumni participation, and foster greater faculty involvement.”
Fostering and strengthening collaborations within
Dean joins a growing team at Fordham Law. Kimathi Gordon-Somers joined Fordham Law in February as the assistant dean of student affairs and diversity. He is responsible for strategic leadership, direction, and assessment for a spectrum of services designed to support student success, enhance engagement, and foster a diverse and inclusive community across a talented, motivated student body.
Additionally, Jennifer Haastrup, who has been serving as a diversity fellow at the Law School since 2018, was appointed the DEI program manager this past spring. She plays a key role in implementing Fordham Law’s many diversity efforts, including managing and coordinating the Increasing Diversity in Education and the Law (IDEAL) pipeline program. The IDEAL program is a three-year legal training program directed at undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a law degree or who have an interest in the law.
“I’m excited about the team that we have built to lead and support the critically important goal of making our law school more supportive and inclusive of students from historically underrepresented groups,” said Dean Matthew Diller of the latest hires.
Diller continued: “Kamille’s experience as an administrative leader and teacher will move us forward in important ways. I’m also delighted that Jennifer has joined us on a full-time basis. As a social worker, she adds an important dimension to the support that we provide students.”
Haastrup brings a fresh, holistic perspective to the team, given her background as a licensed social worker and certified crisis counselor.
“I’m looking forward to having these courageous conversations about social justice and DEI on campus with our students, as well as making sure our community feels heard,” she said. “It’s about looking at what’s going on within the classroom plus examining what’s happening outside of Fordham Law, too—seeing how that affects us and feeling comfortable and included in the conversation to talk about the bigger picture.”
Focusing on students’ well-being
Wellness, which is often stigmatized and overlooked within the legal field, also continues to be a top priority at the Law School. Jordana Confino, director of professionalism and special projects, leads wellness programs for students.
Confino and the Office of Professionalism, for example, just hosted Fordham Law’s first annual Wellness Week, which featured a virtual panel focused on underrepresented groups. It specifically highlighted some of the unique challenges and considerations that people from underrepresented groups face when dealing with and addressing mental health issues.
With these kinds of wellness events being offered during the school year plus Haastrup’s social worker perspective coming into play when coordinating DEI programs for students, Dean believes Fordham Law is on the path to success.
“Having Jennifer as a wellness professional within this department really sets the tone of our strategic plan to prepare students as leaders in diversifying the legal profession. We are working to strengthen our resolve as an anti-racist institution. Our DEI programs and initiatives are designed to ensure that the Law School becomes more inclusive, especially in terms of dismantling systemic racism” Dean said. “It’s also imperative that we incorporate wellness into the Law School experience to provide all of our students with the tools to thrive.”
Haastrup added, “Systemic racism has a significant impact on an individual’s mental health, especially for minorities who are entering and practicing in the law field. We need to make sure they are able to learn and understand that we, as an institution, holistically understand how racism affects the individual.”
Both Dean and Haastrup expressed their gratitude to Deans Matthew Diller and Gordon-Somers, who continue to tirelessly work on developing a comprehensive, strategic plan against DEI issues.
“It’s a labor of love and something that we have all come together on,” Dean said. “We have a tremendous amount of momentum from our students, faculty, staff, and the administration to adopt best practices, policies, and procedures focused on our DEI efforts. With the additional support of our alumni and stakeholders, we are in a viable position to move the needle towards meaningful change.”
In the same vein, Haastrup said, “I hope our students take away the key importance and awareness from all that we are and will be doing, so that they may continue to grow and develop as individuals, not just future lawyers.”
These hires come as Fordham Law’s efforts to address structural racism continue under a three-pronged approach: 1) expanding the diversity of the Fordham Law community and enhancing support systems for these diverse students; 2) working to fundamentally change the environment at Fordham Law to make it more welcoming and inclusive; and 3) committing as a community to fighting for racial justice in society in the best tradition of the school’s motto “in the service of others.”