WMU-Cooley Lansing campus holds virtual Honors Convocation and Commencement

WMU-Cooley Law School’s Lansing campus honored Andrea Lopez-Gonzalez with the Leadership Achievement Award and Student Bar Association Distinguished Student Award during the Honors Convocation held virtually on Nov. 12.

Lopez-Gonzalez, from Leon, Mexico, earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Akron. While at WMJU-Cooley she served as a grade appeals magistrate, graduation marshal, historian and chair of the Black Law Students Association, executive solicitation editor of the WMU-Cooley Law Review, vice president of Phi Delta Phi fraternity, board member and committee chair for the Student Bar Association, social chair for the Organization of Women Law Students, member of the Organization of Women Lawyers, and a member of the Mock Trial team. She also was a student worker for the ESS Communication Center, and a student admissions counselor.

Jennifer Long received both the Meryl Markowitz Memorial Scholarship and the Delta Theta Phi Eugene S. Quigley Scholarship, while Syed Saad Ejaz won the Andaloro Award from the Law Journal, among other recognitions.

Several other students won recognition for participation in school programs, and for earning Certificates of Merit.

Virtual Commencement held Nov. 15
On Nov. 15, the school honored graduates of the May 2020 class during a virtual commencement ceremony when 142 juris doctor and five master of laws degrees were conferred to graduates from the law school’s Michigan and Tampa Bay, campuses.

Providing the valedictory remarks were Jenell Gillespie, from the Tampa Bay campus, and Lauren Simasko, from the Auburn Hills campus. The keynote was presented by WMU-Cooley Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon.

Gillespie said that every student faces various struggles.

“In a matter of weeks our normal routine of going to class, talking to our professors, laughing and joking with our friends in the lounge and hitting those study sessions in the library were replaced by finishing classes online, social distancing from or peers and remaining in the safety of our homes as we quarantined,” said Gillespie.  “There is beauty in the struggle and we do not grow when things are easy. True growth comes when we face challenges and come out on the other side stronger.”

Simasko shared what it means to graduate from law school.

 “I am overwhelmed with pride to be representing the Stephen Johns Field graduating class. Graduating from law school is an unbelievable triumph.  After 90 credits of putting our hairlines, waistlines, sanity, soul, and heart on the legal chopping block, we all deserve to take a moment and bask in the electricity of this triumph,” said Simasko. “You have proven our intelligence to the world. You are responsible, reliable, resourceful, analytical, but as a WMU-Cooley graduate you have even more. Knowledge of the law isn’t only power, it’s adventure. It’s the chance to create a just future for our global community.”

Mitchell-Cichon spoke about the importance of love for the vocation of law in order to experience joy while working in the legal profession.

“Love for a vocation, love for a profession, love for a calling. You now know I have been a lawyer for quite some time. And I have been recognized for my work. But love is not about that,” she said.
“When we love, truly love, we seek nothing in return. When we give love freely and unconditionally, we experience joy. That is what this profession has given me. And that is what I wish for you.”

She also suggested four questions that each graduated should ask of themselves and return to throughout their careers.

“First, am I listening? It is critically important that those in a position of power — which you now are— listen. Second, choose your words carefully. We often remember for years touching words or stinging words that have been spoken to us. Words have the power to hurt. Third, am I doing this for the right reason? This goes beyond being an ethical lawyer. Finally, am I taking care of myself?
It’s no secret that lawyers are susceptible to burnout. Be proactive and participate in healthy activities and learn more about how you can be affected by your work,” said Mitchell-Cichon.
This graduating class is named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Veterans Day Event
On Veteran’s Day the school hosted a virtual conversation with WMU-Cooley graduate and Director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Zaneta Adams.

Associate Dean and retired Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel led the conversation that included Adams’ path from the U.S. Army to law school while overcoming obstacles, and her experiences as a leader in social justice for the veteran community.

While serving in the Army Adams suffered a severe back injury, which left her unable to perform most normal daily functions. After serving eight years and going through rehabilitation, she pursued a legal degree while attending WMU-Cooley.

During the conversation, Adams, who founded WINC: For All Women Veteran’s a nonprofit dedicated to supporting women veterans nationwide, spoke about recognizing that women have served in the military.

“We need to recognize collectively that women served too. We don’t serve in that rare capacity but in a huge capacity.  Women veterans are expected to grow 18 percent in population by 2025. We are serving in a greater rate,” said Adams.

While speaking about issues unique to female veterans, Adams discussed the need for better health care and mental health care options due to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“There are over 43,000 women veterans in the state of Michigan, over 2 million in the country,” said Adams. “I believe the number of women who faced either sexual harassment or sexual assault in the military is nearly 75 percent.

Distinguished Brief Awards
The WMU-Cooley Law Review honored Tracy D. Knox, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Amanda Morris Smith, and David Porter during the  Nov. 19 Distinguished Brief Award virtual ceremony on Nov. 19,  recognizing the most scholarly briefs filed with the Michigan Supreme Court in 2019.

The Hon. Anica Letica of the Michigan Court of Appeals provided the keynote address.

The judges included: Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Attorney Thomas Myers, and WMU-Cooley Law School Professors Bradley Charles, David Finnegan and Richard Henke.

The briefs will be published in an upcoming edition of the WMU-Cooley Law Review.


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