The University of New Mexico’s School of Law has been ranked the nation’s best school for Hispanics in the preLaw magazine.
“(The) University of New Mexico ranks first, thanks to (the) mix of Hispanic students and faculty, plus strong student services,” according to the magazine.
The magazine’s study was based on three variables — student enrollment, faculty and student services — to identify the best schools for Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans.
Student services includes bar exam prep programs, student support groups, mentoring programs, employment workshops and minority affairs offices. Half of the total score in determining the ranking was allotted to the percentage of minority students in a school of law. The number of minority faculty and the quality of student services both applied to the remaining half of the total, 25 percent each.
The magazine used data from the American Bar Association to determine the number of students and faculty, and it collected data from the schools themselves to determine student services.
Sergio Pareja, the co-dean of the School of Law, said this year they have been very fortunate to have a string of good news so far from — what he referred to as — a "wonderful” bar passing rate, to having one of the largest classes in years of entering law students and a strong student body.
“When you start getting some recognition, which we have got this year, it does happen that you have some degree of pressure and responsibility also lying underneath your happiness,” Pareja, who identifies as Hispanic himself, said.
Robert Gandara, a second year Hispanic UNM law student, said the UNM School of Law offers support geared toward minorities in general, and Hispanics in particular, that help transform students into “confident, agile and active attorneys of the future.”
When referring to the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association’s summer camp program held by the law school for a diverse group of middle-schoolers, Gandara said, “Such programs play a crucial role in reaching not only future Hispanic students quite earlier, but those of all multiethnic and multiracial backgrounds.”
“We make (a) huge effort in this area,” Pareja said in regards to student support services for minority students. “I have a long list, but above all, I would mention the things that we have recently added (was) with the help of a huge grant of $2.65 million that we have received from W. K. Kellogg Foundation.”
Pareja said he has a long list of new services, because the school has used that fund for variety of things including:
- Hiring James Simermeyer, an assistant director of diversity and public interest
- Creation of a child and family justice scholarship
- A Korean fellowship
- Admissions travels ambassador program
Pareja said the scholarship is tailored toward students who demonstrate that they have ambitions to serve underserved and underrepresented populations.
He said the Korean fellowship is a two-year, post graduation program, and the ambassador program is designed to have students reach underserved minority populations in order to increase representation.
National-level recognition for any school is never an easy thing. It is a great honor that takes years of untiring, consistent and focused efforts of a team work, Pajera said.
The ranking “is not by chance,” he said.
Tasawar Shah is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tashah_80.