UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Following a selection process involving a unanimous recommendation by a committee that included faculty, students and administrative leaders, Penn State Law in University Park has announced that Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia will serve as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, beginning July 1.
“Dean Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia has long been a leader in efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State Law, Penn State, and nationally, and is an ideal choice for associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Penn State Law Dean Hari Osofsky. “I look forward to partnering with Dean Wadhia to make Penn State Law a welcoming and inclusive environment for every member of our community, and to make progress on combating bias and inequality within the law school, at Penn State, and in our broader society.”
Wadhia is the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Clinical Professor of Law at Penn State Law. She is a first-generation American and lawyer who began her career as an immigration attorney in private practice, where she represented individuals and families from all over the world seeking a benefit or fighting deportation. After 9/11, she spent six years as a lobbyist for a non-profit in Washington, D.C., using her legal expertise to advance immigration reforms or react to policies that harmed immigrant communities.
For the last 12 years, equity has informed Wadhia’s teaching, service, mentoring and scholarship at Penn State Law, where she teaches doctrinal courses in immigration and asylum and refugee law. She is also the founder and director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (CIRC), where she supervises students in three areas: community outreach; legal support in individual immigration cases; and policy work for institutional clients. CIRC is mission-driven and has earned a national reputation for its high-quality work product and impact in the community. In 2019, Wadhia received the Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Wadhia has been a leader for many years in efforts at Penn State Law to advance diversity, equity and inclusion, and is playing an important leadership role currently in listening to and working with Black student leaders to develop and implement concrete action steps. She chaired the faculty diversity committee for five years, which under her leadership, benchmarked racial and ethnic diversity at Penn State Law (students, staff, faculty) against other academic institutions to assess representation; hosted programs on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession; organized a training on implicit bias for faculty members; and conducted a survey of LL.M. (master of laws) students about classroom climate.
Wadhia also innovated the idea for and helped to launch the Minority Mentor Program at Penn State Law, where students who belong to a racial or ethnic minority are paired with a minority alum and faculty mentor throughout their law school career. Wadhia has twice received the Faculty Diversity Award from the Student Bar Association at Penn State Law, and thrice spoken about diversity in the legal profession during student orientation. Informally, she has mentored scores of minority students facing challenges or with questions in navigating law school and the legal profession.
In 2019, University President Eric Barron appointed her to Penn State’s Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED). Wadhia will also co-chair the newly announced university wide Student Code of Conduct Task Force. The goal of the group is to provide actionable proposals to the University.
Wadhia’s commitment to equity in the law is also illustrated by the principles, designs, and solutions in her research, which focuses on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law and the intersections of race, national security, and immigration. She has been a prolific scholar in both areas. Her first book, "Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases," was published by NYU Press in 2015, and named an honorable mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her second book, "Banned: Immigration Enforcement in the Time of Trump," was released on September 10, 2019, by NYU Press, and combines accessible law with the voices of immigrants affected by changes during the Trump administration.
"I am honored to serve as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Wadhia. “Penn State Law should be a place where inclusion, equity and diversity are valued in our teaching, scholarship, learning and community beyond a piece of paper. I pledge to work towards this goal with diligence, integrity and passion."
Wadhia will continue to build on the progress of the inaugural associate dean for equity and inclusion, Penn State Law Professor Dara Purvis, whose leadership and service has guided Penn State Law toward a more inclusive and equitable learning environment. Wadhia will work collaboratively with faculty, staff, students and alumni to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State Law and make progress on concrete action steps.