A Core Value: Inclusion

Respect for diversity is a bedrock principle at Appalachian School of Law, and we strive to recruit and support students from a variety of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. ASL celebrates the value that each unique member of its community adds to the law school experience.

Efforts to recruit, enroll, retain, support, and guide a diverse population is important to the legal education of our students. ASL proactively takes steps to maintain and grow a diverse student body, faculty, and staff. We believe this will ultimately create a positive impact on the underserved clients our graduates represent. 

Recruiting a Diverse Student Body

ASL provides access to legal education for Appalachian people of all backgrounds, including many disadvantaged and demographically diverse people, as well as increases access to legal education as a second career option in this area of economic blight. 

This is with the hope that our students will return to their communities equipped with the knowledge, skills, and desire to serve selflessly. Many ASL graduates do just that — not only by providing competent legal services to those with unmet legal needs, but also by lifting their clients and communities with the sense of hope and self-worth that justice provides.

Retaining a Diverse Student Body

Retaining a diverse and inclusive community is as important as building one through admissions. This endeavor begins as early as orientation, a mandatory new student event occurring both in the spring and the fall. During orientation, we brief students on diversity, equity, and inclusion as a part of ASL’s newly-adopted Professional Identity Formation (PIF) Plan. 

ASL makes an active effort to retain a diverse and inclusive student body, hosting a wide array of student clubs that enrich the intellectual and interpersonal communities at ASL. Student-run organizations that specifically support diversity, equity, and inclusion include but are not limited to:

  • Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
  • Appalachian Women in Law Society (AWILS)
  • OutLaw
  • National Latina/o Law Student Association (NLLSA)

Retaining a diverse student body requires that students from underrepresented backgrounds see examples of lawyers and leaders who have paved the way for success for students of color in the practice. With that in mind, ASL hosts guest lecturers and special guests ranging from graduation speakers to bar leaders offering career and professional advice to students. Some of our guests include:

  • Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia, the first Cuban-American elected to the Virginia General Assembly and the first Hispanic elected statewide in the Commonwealth
  • Jurist-in-Residence visit by Justice (Ret) John Charles Thomas, the first African American Justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia
  • Professor Cynthia Tompkins, a Race and the Law Scholar

Diversity in Our Faculty

ASL is committed to serving all students by hiring experienced educators, recruiters, and counselors to facilitate diversity and improve our campus experience for all. We strive for an educational use of diversity by assembling a full-time and part-time faculty that includes members of underrepresented groups historically marginalized in the legal community. We believe this will develop a cohesive and effective teaching faculty. 

Diversity Mentors

The role of diversity mentors is to promote initiatives, discussion, and understanding on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession among our students. Diversity mentors visit campus on a regular basis to teach and meet with students.

Our diversity mentors include:

  • Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo E. Powell — Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Chair
  • Minority Affairs Officer Professor Chris Young — Diversity and Career Counselor

Diversity Beyond Our Campus

Ultimately, ASL works to improve access to legal services throughout Central Appalachia. This theme of opportunity goes beyond Appalachians helping Appalachians. We are strongly committed to providing access to a legal education to women, racial and ethnic minorities, religious dissidents, and other historically disadvantaged people. This mission is deep-rooted and weighted with meaning. 

This objective fuels the administration and faculty’s passion for insisting on an inclusive admissions policy that takes into account where prospective students have come from, where they can go, and who they can help with a law degree.

Preparing our graduates to understand the special role of the lawyer in a civil society and the importance of honesty, integrity, and professional competence in representing clients from diverse backgrounds and needs permeates our learning objectives.