Thursday, September 10, 2020

With the start of the semester, the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City, Iowa, welcomed one of the most ethnically diverse classes in its 155-year history. Collins Byrd, assistant dean for enrollment management, announced that 24.6 percent of the members of the incoming class are people of color, eclipsing the previous high of 23.6 percent in 1992’s incoming class.

“I am thrilled and honored to announce that Iowa Law has admitted the most ethnically diverse 1L class that has ever entered the College of Law,” said Dean Kevin K. Washburn. “This extraordinary class represents high academic achievement and talent as well as an impressive array of work experience. Iowa Law is a top-ten public law school, and these students will make our school even stronger.”

Iowa Law prioritized growth in minority enrollment over the past two years, and adjustments made during year two yielded the desired result. In 2019, the College of Law accepted a very diverse group of applicants but failed to convince them to matriculate at Iowa. “We prioritized recruitment beyond acceptance, realizing that diverse students and non-residents need good advice to make the decision to move to Iowa, even if it is a nationally ranked law school,” said Amy Best, director of admissions. One new strategy this year was offering admitted applicants an adviser from the existing student body, alumni community, or faculty. Iowa Law also invested more in scholarship support.

The College of Law has long had a school-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee composed of faculty, staff, and students. In the coming year, the DEI committee will be led by faculty co-chairs César F. Rosado Marzán and Christina Bohannan, alongside student co-chair Meddie Demmings and staff co-chair Neda Barrett. Recent successes of the DEI Committee include outreach to newly admitted diverse students with Hawkeye welcome packages, and, for existing students, participation in the American Bar Association’s Judicial Clerkship Program, which introduces students from communities underrepresented in the legal profession to the possibility of a clerkship with a judge after graduation. That clerkship program was made available to Iowa Law students in 2018 and succeeded in helping diverse students earn prestigious clerkships on the Iowa Supreme Court and elsewhere.

In 2018, Iowa Law founded a student organization for first-generation professionals. The “First Gen” student group, like the College of Law’s DEI Committee, helps the College of Law feel welcoming to students from underrepresented communities in the law school. 

The Class of 2023 has 167 students of which 53% are women. These students are from 29 different states and three foreign countries. These students received their undergraduate education in 45 different majors at 85 institutions. Political science is still the most common major, followed by English.

The challenges generated by the COVID-19 pandemic made decisions regarding law school very difficult all around the country. COVID-19 appeared toward the middle of the usual admissions cycle and some LSAT exam administrations were delayed, making applying to law school more challenging. Applications were down slightly this year at Iowa Law and throughout the Midwest and Great Plans regions.

“We are excited about this incoming class but there is still a lot of work to accomplish as we endeavor to provide all of our students with one of the best legal educations in the country,” said Dean Washburn.

Iowa Law is the oldest law school west of the Mississippi. It was founded in Des Moines in 1865 and moved to Iowa City three years later and became a part of the University of Iowa. Iowa Law continues to build on the vision of its founders by producing versatile graduates who serve their communities and further the profession by advancing society's understanding of the law. From graduating its first female, Black, and international law students in the 1800s to establishing one of the oldest student-edited legal journals in the nation and building the second largest academic law library in the country, Iowa Law has long been a leader in diversity and legal education.

The data in this article was current as of September 10, 2020.