New Program Initiatives: Villanova University School of Law - Overall Grand Gold and Gold Medal

Category 1E: Alumni Relations Programs – New Program Initiatives
Villanova University School of Law – Minority Alumni Society
“Why Diversity Matters Program”

Contact: Colleen M. Belz, director of alumni relations, Villanova University School of Law, 299 North Spring Mill Road, Villanova, PA, Phone: (610) 519-7036, email:

Staff: One professional staff member and one support staff member provided assistance to this project, which was spearheaded by the Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society Board.

Program Description: “Diversity” is not just a buzz word. Juries, clients, customers, deal and policy makers continue to grow more diverse at a faster pace than the legal workforce. Statistics show that 90 percent of the legal community is white, and of that, more than 70 percent are men. The total minority representation, about 10 percent, is obviously disproportionate to the general population and significantly lower than other professions. Nationally, around 3 percent of all partners in law firms are minorities. This disparity greatly impacts the ability of the legal community to effectively serve their clients.

Realizing the continued need to engage the larger legal community in the discussion of the importance of and ongoing challenge to achieving meaningful diversity in the legal profession, the Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society launched its first annual program on diversity on Thursday evening, February 23, 2006 at Top of the Tower in Center City Philadelphia. The event was free of charge and open to the public.

The evening began with an hour-long energetic panel discussion entitled Why Diversity Matters. Six distinguished panelists, representing diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and practice settings, participated in the discussion: Carl G. Cooper, Esq., Chief Diversity Officer for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP; Doug Gaston, Esq., ’92, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Comcast Cable; Don H. Liu, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Toll Brothers, Inc.; Pedro A. Ramos, Esq., Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia; Hon. Marjorie O. Rendell, ’73, judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and First Lady of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and Ramona E. Romero, Esq., Corporate Counsel & Manager of Law. The formal discussion was immediately followed by a networking reception.

The topic and panelists were of such interest that all 200 program seats were reserved through word-of-mouth publicity before formal invitations were printed. Additionally, the Society Board was able to raise a total of $55,000 in law firm and corporate sponsorships to assist in covering event costs. In the end $40,000 in excess sponsorship money was directed to the Society’s Book Scholarship Fund. The Fund, established by the Society to assist students who have achieved academically in the face of significant cultural, social or economic obstacles, provides $1,000 scholarships each year to help defray the cost of books for incoming students. The Scholarships are awarded in the fall on the basis of merit and financial need.

Program Goals and Objectives: The primary goal for all Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society programs is to support and promote diversity at Villanova University School and within the legal profession at large. Strategic program objectives for this program included the following:

  • to raise visibility of Villanova Law’s commitment to promoting and supporting diversity among alumni and the legal and business communities;
  • to foster personal and professional relationships with and among minority alumni and the Law School;
  • to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas relative to the interests of minority law students and lawyers; and
  • to increase financial support for the Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society Book Scholarship Fund.

Target Audience: Villanova Law alumni and students, the legal and business communities of Greater Philadelphia

Total Number of Participants: 215 (200 seat-venue, six panelists and nine student volunteers), plus six Gold Sponsors ($5,000), five Silver Sponsors ($3,000), nine Bronze Sponsors ($1,000) and two Friend Sponsors ($500).

Total Number of Living and Addressable Alumni: Just over 9,000

Total Number of Volunteers Involved: 15 active members of the Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society Board designed the program, engaged panelists and solicited sponsorships; nine minority student volunteers served as hosts to greet and direct guests at the event.

Program Budget: $25,000 ($15,000 in sponsorship contributions were used to cover catering, AV and space rental costs, and the dean and director of alumni relations committed $10,000 from the alumni relations budget, which was used for printing and advertising, to demonstrate their support of the Minority Alumni Society and its programming)

Documented Results:

  • Increased awareness in the legal and business communities of Villanova Law’s commitment to supporting and promoting diversity. After the event, the Minority Alumni Society President, April Byrd ’95, worked with her firm colleague and a member of the Law School’s Board of Consultors, Joseph DelRaso ’81, on creating a diversity partnership between their firm, Pepper Hamilton LLP, and the Law School. As part of the agreement, each year Pepper Hamilton will award two full scholarships to students of color at Villanova Law and will hire two law clerks of color from the school.
  • Provided legal and business professionals with the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion of the importance of and ongoing challenge to achieve meaningful diversity in the legal profession.
  • Increased participation by minority alumni in the Society’s Minority Mentoring Program. Through the program, minority alumni serve as mentors to minority students providing valuable knowledge and insight into the legal and business professions, while also sharing practical advice concerning the challenges of law school.
  • Covered event costs through law firm and corporate sponsorships.
  • Contributed $40,000 in excess sponsorship dollars to the Minority Alumni Society Book Scholarship Fund.
  • Introduced minority students to potential employers and mentors. Program sponsors were invited to and attended Minority Alumni Society and Minority Student Association events throughout the remainder of the year.
  • Attendees, law firm and corporate sponsors reaffirmed their support for the Society’s second annual diversity program held on February 22, 2007. This year, $70,500 in sponsorship dollars was raised, and the event was moved to a larger venue—the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia—to enable more people to attend.

Mission: The mission of the Villanova Law Alumni Association is to strengthen alumni connections to Villanova Law and one another, to promote a commitment to serving those in need and to assist the Law School and alumni in the pursuit of excellence in legal education and the practice of law. The mission of the Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society, an affiliate of the Association, is to support and promote diversity at Villanova University School and within the legal profession at large.