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Stillman College, SIU School of Law pact aims to increase diversity among attorneys

A black woman and white man sign papers at a table

By David Miller

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Stillman College and Southern Illinois University Carbondale have signed a memorandum of understanding to help students from the historically Black liberal arts college enroll and earn a degree from the SIU School of Law, with the aim of diversifying the legal profession.

Black professors and college administrators conduct a virtual meeting
Representatives from Stillman and SIU meet Wednesday.

Parties from both Stillman and SIU School of Law formalized their agreement Wednesday. Stillman is the first HBCU to establish a student pipeline program with SIU School of Law.

“This program will allow selected students to participate in a summer pre-law program to expose them to the rigor and policies of law school admissions,” said Dr. Cynthia Warrick, Stillman College President.

“We are also looking to advance similar programs in pre-health professions for students in Stillman’s Biomedical Academy with SIU. Collaborative efforts like this will ensure Stillman students are competitive for entry and success in law school and other professional programs. We are grateful to SIU for creating this opportunity.”

Under the agreement, SIU and Stillman College, a 761-student institution in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will engage in collaborative academic activities with the SIU School of Law that promote a path for Stillman College students to enroll in the law school and earn their law degree. The MOU also includes other options for students considering how they can continue their education after earning their bachelor’s degrees.

Camille Davidson, dean of SIU’s School of Law, noted that about two-thirds of minority applicants who apply to the law school are not accepted primarily due to low Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. In October 2021, there were 246 students in the law school, of which 17, or 7%, were Black. The law school had 41 minority students, including women, last fall.

“We are committed to being an anti-racist and inclusive law school,” Davidson said. “The only way to have real access to justice is to train attorneys from various backgrounds. Students from underrepresented populations are often not exposed to the study of law, and many who are interested are not prepared for the application and admissions process. Building partnerships with HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, like Stillman, will help SIU School of Law become more diverse.”

Summer program also planned

A summer program will bring 15 college students from across the country to SIU’s campus, May 25-29, to explore legal careers, understand the law school application process and begin to prepare for the LSAT while honing skills necessary for law school, such as understanding how to read and analyze a case, Davidson said.

“We will answer ‘Why law school?’ We want to provide these students with the resources to be successful in applying to and graduating from law school,” Davidson said. “Like SIU, Stillman is located in a rural area and many of the students are first-generation college students.”

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