College of Education > News and Publications > 2016: 10-12 news > Promoting diversity brings things ‘full circle’ for student

Promoting diversity brings things ‘full circle’ for student

Vanessa Miller, a second-year joint J.D./Ph.D. student in Higher Education and vice president of the Penn State Latino/a Law Student Association, had the opportunity to moderate a panel of Latino and Latina attorneys at the Second Annual National Hispanic Prelaw Conference held at New York University on Nov. 11.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three years ago, Penn State Law student Vanessa Miller was considering going to law school, wondering about the barriers she would face as a Latina woman in the legal profession.

Vanessa Miller
Penn State Law student Vanessa Miller at the Second Annual National Hispanic Prelaw Conference.
When considering her options and the challenges she might face in the historically non-diverse field of law, Miller would attend conferences and panels on diversity and inclusion, where she would listen to attorneys who had gone down the same path she was considering and overcome the same obstacles she might face.

Now, as a flourishing second year joint J.D./Ph.D. student in Higher Education and vice president of the Penn State Latino/a Law Student Association, Miller had the opportunity to moderate a panel of Latino and Latina attorneys at the Second Annual National Hispanic Prelaw Conference held at New York University on Nov. 11.

“I feel as if I’ve really come full circle,” Miller said. “It felt great to go from sitting in the audience to standing on stage as a moderator, and to be able to continue the efforts I started three years ago.”

Miller led a panel of six Latino and Latina attorneys practicing law in a range of industries through a 90-minute discussion of Latino/a representation in the legal profession, how each attorney overcame the barriers they faced in their personal journeys, and what aspiring minority law students should know when making their decision to pursue a career in law. She helped maintain the momentum of the discussion and, drawing on her own experience, helped students articulate their concerns and questions, and steered the conversation so it would be of the most benefit to the audience.

One remark from one of the panelists in particular struck a chord with Miller: Every great civil rights movement in America started with an attorney, and if “we want that progression in American society to continue, we have to be the attorneys that will fight the good fight."

“The conference affirmed to me that great things are very possible, even with the barriers that Latino/a people face," said Miller. "The work we’re doing is so important and we can’t forget why we started in the first place.

"You’re never going to have a room full of people who look or speak like you, and that’s OK. We simply need the Latino community to sit at the proverbial 'table,' and this experience has affirmed for me that I, too, will someday have a place at that table.”

This article originally appeared on Penn State News.