A History of Commitment to Diversity

Washburn University was founded in 1865 on the then-revolutionary premise of open access to and diversity in education. Washburn University School of Law is committed to continuing and expanding upon this legacy. Diversity among faculty, staff, and students is essential to fulfilling the mission and vision of the law school, and the school uses every means available to support robust diversity within the law school community.

Washburn Law strives to promote a culture and academic environment that embraces, promotes, and respects students from a range of diverse backgrounds. Importantly, Washburn takes an inclusive view of diversity in today's society considering diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, religion, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, and more. We value diversity in the law school because it:

  • Contributes to a culture of inclusion and acceptance.
    Greater diversity, combined with efforts to foster a tolerant and accepting community, helps create a learning environment in which all students feel equally welcome and comfortable, free to focus on their studies.
  • Enriches the education we provide
    Greater diversity in the classroom, with a student body of varied perspectives and life experiences, contributes to a richer educational experience that better prepares students for the various career options open to law school graduates.
  • Broadens participation in law and policy making.
    Greater diversity in the law school leads to greater participation in the development and implementation of law and policy by members of communities historically marginalized and under-represented in the legal profession, in government, and other institutions involved in policy formulation.
  • Increases the fairness and equality of our justice system
    Greater diversity in the law school, leading to greater diversity in the legal profession and other aspects of the justice system, ultimately contributes to both the perception and reality of greater fairness and justice for members of communities that have been historically marginalized, under-represented and discriminated against, who are implicated in various aspects of the justice system.

Diversity Initiatives and Events

The law school's diversity committee spearheads and coordinates multiple enrichment activities each year that explore and promote issues relating to diversity in the law. For example, in 2014 and 2015, the law school sponsored a series of lectures and workshops exploring legal issues related to the Ferguson shooting and protests, including police racial profiling, disproportionate minority representation in prison populations, de facto housing segregation, and judicial biases. In 2016, the law school hosted a symposium focused on law firm and corporate diversity, which brought together national experts on diversity to discuss efforts to further develop greater diversity in leadership of the legal profession, and to provide Washburn law students with an opportunity to interact with and learn from these role models.

Student Organizations

Multiple student groups are dedicated to supporting and bolstering diversity in the law:

  • Black Law Students Assocation (BLSA)
  • Hispanic American Law Students Association (HALSA)
  • Asian American Law Students Association (AALSA)
  • Native American Law Students Association (NALSA)
  • Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA)
  • Women's Legal Forum (WLF)

These active student groups organize and host a wide range of activities throughout the year, from invited lecturers to networking sessions to social events.

Serving a Diverse Community

Washburn Law's commitment to diversity begins in the classroom and extends to the community. Through the Washburn Law Clinic, Clinic student interns, faculty, and staff ensure the representation of individuals, nonprofits and businesses that could not otherwise afford legal representation. Washburn Law Clinic interns have provided nearly 9,000 hours of pro bono legal service to individuals who earn no more than 150% of the federal poverty level and to nonprofit organizations and businesses who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Outside of the clinic, Washburn Law students donate time and hours to community service organizations and events. And, Washburn Law's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) serves approximately 200 low-income families, many of whom are racial and ethnic minorities and single mothers, and generates nearly $300,000 in tax refunds for the community annually.

Scholarship Opportunities

Washburn Law uses its substantial scholarship funds to help build a truly diverse student community. With a scholarship budget of approximately $3 million annually, most Washburn Law students receive scholarship support.

Diversity Related Job Opportunities

Washburn Law also invests in legal placement opportunities for its diverse student population through its Professional Development Office. Washburn Law participates in several diversity career fairs, including: the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Heartland Diversity Legal Job Fair, the Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair, the Rocky Mountain Diversity Legal Career Fair, the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice program, and the Lavender Law® Career Fair.

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LSAC Midwest Diversity Matters Award
Photograph: LSAC Midwest Diversity Matters Award received in 2019 by Washburn Law.

Washburn Law was awarded the Diversity Matters award at the LSAC's 2019 Annual Conference. This award is given to a law school that has demonstrated the highest level of outreach to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, the LGBTQ community, Indigenous People of Canada, and others underrepresented in the legal profession.