CARLISLE, Pa. — The global health pandemic may have resulted in the postponement of Dickinson Law’s traditional in-person commencement ceremony for the class of 2020, but it did not stop administration, faculty, staff, students and alumni from collectively recognizing the accomplishments of the Law School’s juris doctor (J.D.) and master of laws (LL.M.) graduates.
On Friday, May 15, Dickinson Law Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law Danielle M. Conway and the Dickinson Law community launched a day of virtual celebrations as part of “Operation Realizing the Dream.” An initiative chaired by Conway and Associate Dean of Academic and Student Services Jeffrey A. Dodge, “Operation Realizing the Dream” deploys resources, programs and services that directly target the changed landscape that Dickinson Law students are experiencing in the award of their degrees, preparation for the bar exam, and their professional transition to becoming licensed attorneys.
Conway opened the virtual celebration via Facebook Live and told the graduates that they, more than most classes to have come through the doors of Trickett Hall, have done the impossible.
“Class of 2020, we are confident you will be successful in the practice of law. We are even more confident that you will meet the high standard of a Dickinson Law lawyer," said Conway. "You will remember this day not because of a pandemic but because of how you hurdled this obstacle to enter the profession. You will remember this day because this was the day you chose justice. This was the day that you decided how the profession would be led.”
This year’s commencement keynote, Lieutenant General Christopher F. Burne, U.S. Air Force (retired), the 17th Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, a 1983 graduate of Dickinson Law, and one of Dickinson Law’s most dedicated and loyal advocates, pre-recorded his remarks for the graduates. In addition to sharing a personal lesson in leadership, Burne told the class of 2020, “the legal education and training you have received at Dickinson Law are truly the best you will find. You are prepared to practice greatness.”
Juris doctor graduates Samuel “Trey” Manning, 2020, and Jasmine Sandhu, 2020, and LL.M. graduate Sayeed Azhar, 2020, were selected by their peers to deliver remarks during commencement, which were also pre-recorded.
Samuel "Trey" Manning, 2020, the recipient of the Lee Popp Award for his excellence in service, extracurricular activities and devotion to the class, reminded his classmates, “As we leave this school and start to begin our legal careers, a lot of people are going to turn to us and ask us for advice. Helping others is really what we do."
Manning will join the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney this fall. He earned his undergraduate degree from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania.
Master of Laws graduate Sayeed Azhar, 2020, highlighted the special community that is Dickinson Law during his remarks. “The notion of opening doors of opportunity for a diverse community through the wonderful LL.M. program defines the core mission of Dickinson Law. Dickinson Law is not only a school; it is a family. A good family where the members stand beside each other in times of hardship, and I am privileged to be a member of this family.”
Prior to attending Dickinson Law, Azhar attended Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, and worked as a general director, senior pension policy analyst, and strategic policy adviser at the World Bank in Afghanistan. He also served as legal counsel for USAID (IRD-KESIP) in Afghanistan, among other positions, including team leader for MCM Learning, a sub-contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Proudly representing the class of 2020 as a J.D. student speaker, Sandhu acknowledged that her classmates had their own law school journey. “Some gave birth to or raised children during law school. Some were balancing another career with this full-time J.D. program. Some of us dealt with anxiety, depression, the imposter syndrome, or the loss of a loved one. But, one commonality between each of our journeys is that we worked incredibly hard. Class of 2020, I hope you take the time to really celebrate this accomplishment, even in quarantine.”
This fall, Sandhu will join the transactional law practice group of Dechert LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Davis.
Other components of the virtual celebration included pre-recorded remarks from Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones, a video featuring Dickinson Law alumni congratulating the class of 2020, a complete list of awards and recognition, and a digital yearbook presented by the classes of 2021 and 2022.
Because of Dickinson Law’s intentionally small design, administration has committed to personal delivery of diplomas when conditions permit. Graduates signed up to attend individual or small group diploma presentation ceremonies on campus when health guidelines are lifted. For any graduate unable to return to campus when conditions permit, a faculty member or administrator will travel to the graduate’s new hometown to award the diploma.
“As we await the opportunity to congratulate the graduates in person and present diplomas among family and friends during future celebrations, we are beginning phase two of ‘Operation Realizing the Dream,’ including enhanced supplemental bar exam preparation programs and resources, and expanded career services counseling and programming,” said Dodge. “We are committed to ensuring that our graduates have the necessary resources to succeed upon completion of their law school journey.”
Members of the class of 2020 will launch their legal careers in a wide range of employment settings throughout the country, including completing clerkships; serving in government positions, including U.S. Army Judge Advocate General appointments and District Attorneys’ offices; and working in large, regional, boutique and small law firms; in public interest; and in business and industry.
View the class of 2020 virtual celebration, including video remarks here.