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Monday, April 22, 2024

UF Law has its most diverse class in the last five years

Diversity remains a goal for students and faculty alike

First-year international law student Winxin Feng stands outside UF Levin College of Law on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.
First-year international law student Winxin Feng stands outside UF Levin College of Law on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.

The Levin College of Law Class of 2026 has seen an increase in diversity among its student body.

The Class of 2026 had 3,987 applications and admitted 680 students. Of the 180 students who accepted their spots in the class, 53% are women, and 36% come from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to UF Law’s entering class profile. About 13.8% of applicants identified as LGBTQ+. 

The law school has consistently increased the acceptance of students from a wide range of backgrounds. In 2022, the incoming class’ overall diversity was about 33% and the Class of 2019 had 29% diversity. 

Race and ethnic identity are self-reported by applicants. In 2023, 1,811 applicants to the college identified as being part of a racial or ethnic minority. 

Whitney Smith is the assistant dean for messaging and outreach for the Levin College of Law. In an email, she wrote UF Law ensures all applicants are treated equally and have “excellent credentials from a wide range of backgrounds.” 

“UF Law graduates go on to serve populations across the state, nation and globe,” she wrote. “Enrolling and educating students who come from all walks of life and with a variety of viewpoints means that our graduates will be able to better serve communities across the globe.” 

The law school aims to protect its inclusivity. All students are supported throughout their careers at the school, Smith said. Resources like networking opportunities and a full-time, on-site mental health counselor help ensure students from all backgrounds feel welcome at the college, she added. 

“We are committed to ensuring every student is respected at UF Law,” Smith wrote. “We will continue to foster a community that is built on trust.” 

Shayna Schulman, a 24-year-old UF Law student, is completing her J.D. and pursuing a career in litigation. She believes having students from various backgrounds is important to bring new perspectives to the classroom. 

“When we’re talking about a legal concept, it’s really helpful to have different people engaging in the conversation because they might bring up a point that you never thought of,” Schulman said.

Organizations such as UF Law Association for Women and the Caribbean Law Students Association help provide a space for students to share those perspectives and be supported during their time in the college.

Schulman is involved with UF Law Association for Women and found a welcoming community, she said.  

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“It’s a good environment to have everyone together,” she said. 

Diversity among students should also be reflected in the school’s faculty, Schulman said. 

“A lot of my professors are women,” she said. “To go to them to get career advice can be really helpful.”

Katiuska Scovino, a 24-year-old UF Law student, is a member of the First Generation Professionals Society at UF Law. She said having a more diverse class can be beneficial to students, not only professionally but socially. 

“If you have a very homogenous group of people attending law school,” Scovino said, “you’re most likely going to have a very homogenous group of people enforcing laws and effectuating change in society.” 

However, the conversation of diversity goes beyond UF Law. Scovino believes there is a broader issue of representation beyond admissions and in the legal field. Factors such as systemic racism and socioeconomic status can limit more students from applying, she said. 

“I think law school admissions could make more of an effort to give out … scholarships and do their best to recruit members of the community,” Scovino said.

Scovino doesn’t know of any formal initiatives UF Law has in place to increase diversity. Most engagement with diverse students comes from student-run organizations like FGPS. 

The college’s goal is to “achieve excellence in educating professionals” and prepare lawyers to serve the public, according to its mission statement. With more students able to reflect the nation’s diversity in the college, UF Law aims to continue its mission. 

Inclusivity goes beyond just showing that a student is diverse just through race; it’s also about “giving students that space to talk about their experiences, as opposed to just shutting down all conversation about diversity,” Scovino said. 

Contact Delia Rose Sauer at Follow her on X @_delia_rose_.

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Delia Rose Sauer

Delia Rose Sauer is a second-year journalism major and the graduate & professional school reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she loves drawing, crocheting and exploring music genres.

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