Featured Reunion Speakers
These featured reunion speakers represent a diverse range of achievements and perspectives, providing inspiration and insight to our alumni community.
Roger A. Fairfax, Jr.
Dean and Professor of Law
Roger A. Fairfax, Jr. is Dean of American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) and a prominent legal scholar, educator, and nationally known expert on criminal justice. Before joining AUWCL as Dean, Fairfax served as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law, and founding director of the Criminal Law & Policy Initiative at George Washington University Law School.
Dean Fairfax’s scholarship has been published in books and leading journals, and he has taught courses and conducted research on criminal law and procedure, professional responsibility and ethics, criminal justice policy and reform, racial justice, and grand jury and internal investigations. He has championed diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts throughout higher education and the legal profession.
Prior to his career in academia, he practiced law with the firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Washington, DC, and served as a federal prosecutor through the Attorney General’s Honors Program in the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and did details in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. He began his legal career as a law clerk to Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and to Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Dean Fairfax has served on the boards of the National Bar Association, the Southeastern Association of Law Schools, and the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and he currently serves on the boards of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and the Historical Society of the DC Circuit. In 2019, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him to the Judicial Conference of the United States, Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, and he was reappointed in 2022. Also in 2022, Dean Fairfax was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Dean Fairfax is a member of the bar in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Maryland, and is admitted to practice in a number of federal trial and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He graduated with honors from Harvard College, the University of London, and Harvard Law School, where he was an NAACP Legal Defense Fund/Shearman & Sterling Scholar and an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Congressman, Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman Jamie Raskin proudly represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district includes most of Montgomery County and a small part of Prince George's County. Congressman Raskin was sworn into his fourth Term at the start of the 118th Congress on January 6, 2023.
Rep. Raskin was chosen by the Democratic Caucus to be the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability in the 118th Congress. This is his fourth term serving on the Oversight Committee.
Prior to his time in Congress, Raskin was a three-term State Senator in Maryland, where he also served as the Senate Majority Whip. He earned a reputation for building coalitions in Annapolis to deliver a series of landmark legislative accomplishments, including marriage equality, abolition of the death penalty, passage of the first Benefit Corporation law in America and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. He was also a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law for more than 25 years. He has authored several books, including the Washington Post best-seller Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People, the highly-acclaimed We the Students: Supreme Court Cases For and About America’s Students, and the New York Times #1 best-seller Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy.
WCL 1993 – Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
Richard R. Verma serves as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management & Resources. In this role, he acts as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department, and leads the Department’s efforts on modernization, foreign assistance, and a wide range of workforce and strategic issues.
Deputy Secretary Verma previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to India, where he led one of the largest U.S. diplomatic missions and championed historic progress in bilateral ties. He is also a former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs and the former National Security Advisor to the Senate Majority Leader.
Deputy Secretary Verma is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and the recipient of numerous military awards and civilian decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal and the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award. He is also the recipient of the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship, and the Chief Justice Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award.
Elizabeth Earle Beske
Associate Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
Elizabeth Earle Beske received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1989 and a J.D. from Columbia University Law School in 1993. At Columbia, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Law Review and was designated a Kent Scholar and Stone Scholar. Upon graduation, she received the John Ordronaux prize for highest academic achievement in her graduating class.
After graduation, Ms. Beske clerked for Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Beske spent 4 years as an appellate litigator at Munger, Tolles, & Olson LLP in San Francisco, California before moving to Bethesda, Maryland with her family. In recent years, she has worked as a consultant specializing in appellate writing.
In 2018, Professor Beske received the Washington College of Law Excellence in Teaching Award. At the law school, she teaches Civil Procedure, Federal Courts, and Constitutional Law, and her scholarship focuses on Article III, adjudicative retroactivity, and the separation of powers.
WCL 1984 – Chairman and CEO, AudioNow
Elan Blutinger is the current Chairman and CEO of AudioNow, where he has successfully led the launch, growth, and capitalization of the industry-leading mobile distribution platform for 5,000+ in-language media partners. He is also the Managing Director of Alpine Consolidated, LLC, a merchant bank specializing in initial public offerings of consolidated and fragmented technology companies.
Mr. Blutinger has previously served as the Lead Director, Chairman Corporate Governance and Compensation Committee for Great Wolf Resorts (NYSE: WOLF); Chair of the Compensation Committee for Hotels.Com (NYSE: HOTELS); Vice Chair of Our Time.Org; Co-founder and board member of VacationRoost; Lead Director, Member of the Board, and Chairman of the Remuneration Committee for Online Travel Co (LSE: OTC); Co-Founder Lead Director of Resortquest International (NYSE: RQI); Co-Founder and Lead Director of Travel Services International (NASDAQ: TRVL) where he founded and led the IPO of the largest vacation rental company in the US and Canada; and the Federal Relations Manager and Wang Laboratories.
Mr. Blutinger earned his BA in International Relations from the American University in 1978, a MA in Political Economy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1980, and a Juris Doctor from the American University Washington College of Law in 1984.
WCL 2008 – Founder/CEO of Flow Forward Capital, Emerging VC Fund Manager, and Lawyer
Tanisha James is an award-winning M&A and antitrust attorney, venture capitalist, author, speaker, diversity champion and mentor. Most recently, she was an equity partner at Cooley LLP where her practice focused on the representation and counseling of corporate clients in connection with their domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, strategic combinations, minority investments, joint ventures and government and private investigations. Her clients regularly entrust her with guiding investors, boards, executives and funds through the merger assessment & advisement process, merger review analysis and procedure, negotiation with governmental and private parties, responding to second requests and agency investigations, advocating before domestic and multi-national agencies and political bodies, coordinating high profile domestic and cross-jurisdictional antitrust defense strategies and teams, and advising on interlocking directorates. The breath of Tanisha’s experience comes from years of working collaboratively with clients primarily in high-tech and life sciences section, including biotech, pharma, digital/print media and publishing, software/cloud solutions, and more. Tanisha also has experience with consumer products, beauty, apparel, edtech, fintech, industrial equipment, automotive parts, food, logistics and sports.
Tanisha has made multiple appearances on the Super Lawyers annual list of Rising Stars, was recognized in the inaugural edition of the Lawyers of Color “Hot List,” and listed in the Who's Who Legal List of Future Leaders. In recent years, Tanisha has been named a Rising Star by the New York Law Journal, an M&A/Antitrust Trailblazer by the National Law Journal, a Notable Woman in Law by Crain’s New York and a 40 under 40 by the Network Journal. Most recently, she was named a “Recommended Lawyer” in the area of Merger Control by Legal 500 United States, to the NBA's 2021 40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates, and the Corporate Counsel’s Women, Influence & Power in Law – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion.
While at Cooley, Tanisha served as the first chair of the firm’s Black Attorney Affinity Group and on numerous firm committees including, the Partnership Nomination Committee, the 2020 Board Nomination Committee, the Pro Bono Committee and the Mental Health & Wellness Committee.
Tanisha recently left Cooley after practicing for 15 exciting years to focus on venture capital advising and investing.
WCL 1997 – Finance Lawyer and Senior Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Jason Kanner is one of the most senior partners in the Firm’s Debt Finance Group and one of the most experienced finance lawyers in the United States. He represents private equity funds, their portfolio companies and other borrowers in financing transactions throughout the bulge-bracket and middle market, in connection with complex secured and unsecured financing transactions for U.S. and cross-border transactions, including major leveraged buy-outs, bank/bridge commitments, first and second lien financings, ABL facilities, leveraged recapitalizations, liability management transactions and other less traditional financings. He also has extensive experience representing debtors in restructurings.
Jason has over twenty-five years’ experience advising financial sponsors including, among others, Avista Capital, Bain Capital, Centerbridge Partners, Crestview Partners, CVC Capital Partners, Durational Capital, GI Partners, H.I.G Capital, L Catterton, MidOcean Partners, Nordic Capital, Olympus Partners, Trilantic Capital Partners, TPG, Patient Square Capital, The Carlyle Group, The Jordan Company and Warburg Pincus.
Jason additionally regularly advises corporate clients including, Charter Communications, Camping World, RBC Bearings, StubHub, Univar Solutions and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. He has advised on more than $100 billion of financing arrangements over the course of his career with transactions ranging in size from tens of millions to in excess of thirty billion dollars.
WCL 2012 – Partner, Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation, Goodwin Procter
Andrew Kim is a partner in the firm’s Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation practice. His work focuses on appellate matters and complex civil litigation in federal and state courts. Andrew has experience in a wide range of areas including administrative law, blockchain and digital currency, consumer financial services, disability law, gaming and gambling law, and white collar defense.
Professor of Law, Director of Business Law Program, American University Washington College of Law
David V. Snyder was appointed professor of law at the American University Washington College of Law in the fall of 2007 and was appointed director of the Business Law Program in 2008. During 2021-2022, he also holds a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship at the European University Institute (Florence). He graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University Law School in 1991, and he has been a professor of law at Tulane, Indiana (Bloomington), and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He has been a regular visiting professor at the law school of the University of Paris II (Panthéon-Assas) since 2012, and has also been a visiting professor at the University of Paris 10 (Nanterre La Défense), Boston University, and the College of William and Mary. In addition, he has taught summer courses at the University of Mainz (Germany). After graduating from law school, Professor Snyder served as a law clerk to the Honorable John M. Duhé Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and subsequently joined the D.C. firm of Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). In 2014 Professor Snyder was awarded a MacCormick Fellowship during which he delivered the annual Wilson Memorial Lecture at the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Snyder’s teaching and research interests are primarily in contracts and commercial law, including their international and comparative aspects. He was chair of the Section on Contracts of the Association of American Law Schools (2005-2006) and chaired the Washington steering committee for the XVIIIth International Congress of Comparative Law (2010). He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, a titular member of the International Academy of Comparative Law, and has served on the board of directors of the Washington Foreign Law Society and the board of editors of the American Journal of Comparative Law. He currently chairs the American Bar Association Business Law Section Working Group to Draft Human Rights Protections in International Supply Contracts and also chairs the Implementation Task Force for the ABA Model Business and Supplier Policies on Labor Trafficking and Child Labor.
WCL 1998 – Vice President & Head of Global Public Policy, General Motors
Omar Vargas is the Vice President, Head of Global Public Policy at General Motors (GM). In this role, he leads GM’s global engagement of government officials and public policy.
Prior to joining GM in August of 2021, Omar held senior government relations roles with 3M, Praxair and PepsiCo. In the early 2000s, Omar was as an appointee of President George W. Bush to the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served in a variety of capacities. His portfolio included a broad range of law enforcement, civil rights, national security, and immigration policy matters, including violence against women and human trafficking victim services programs. His government service was preceded by work at Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, the U.S. Court of International Trade, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He earned a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law and School of International Service and a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Literature from Seton Hall University in 1995. At Seton Hall University, Omar received the University’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Honor, in recognition of his academic achievements and community leadership and was awarded with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship, a full academic scholarship intended to honor and promote the memory of the slain national leader.
Omar is committed to various philanthropic efforts outside of his professional work. He serves as co-chair of the Meridian Center’s Executive Committee and as a board member for Fiscal Note, Executive Institute Advisory Board and the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Previously, he held various board engagement positions including Fords Theater Board of Trustees, the Hispanic National Bar Association Legal Education Fund, the Deuville Building Relief Fund, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Omar’s volunteerism with community-based organizations and advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers has earned him recognition by the New Jersey State Assembly and the Washington College of Law.
Omar has also earned recognition from the University of New Mexico School of Law U.S.-Mexico Law Institute, the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Institute on Lobbying and Ethics (2020 Top Lobbyist), The Hill (2019, 2020 Top Lobbyist), and Washingtonian Magazine (2022 Most Influential).
WCL 2003 - Assistant Professor, Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, and Director of SPA Leadership Program, American University School of Public Affairs
Jessica Waters is a higher-ed administrator focused on student inclusion and thriving. Professor. Lawyer. Reproductive rights legal scholar.
As Dean and Vice Provost, Jessica served as leader and principal decision-maker for American University undergraduate curriculum, undergraduate experience, academic support, disability accommodations, learning communities, and Honors and Scholars programs. Principally charged with oversight, implementation, and risk assessment regarding university-wide undergraduate policies and procedures. Directly manage and lead team of 70 staff and faculty; provide oversight and direction for all university academic affairs staff. Responsible for university-wide academic decision-making, strategic planning, and risk assessment across and in collaboration with 7 colleges.
WCL 1982 - Professor of Practice in Constitutional Law, American University Washington College of Law
Stephen Wermiel is a Professor of Practice in Constitutional Law and part of the Program on Law and Government at American University Washington College of Law. He is currently a member of the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA) and also sits in the ABA House of Delegates, He is past chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice (CRSJ) (formerly Individual Rights and Responsibilities) and author of a monthly column on SCOTUSblog aimed at explaining the Supreme Court to law students. He is co-author of JUSTICE BRENNAN: LIBERAL CHAMPION, the definitive biography of the late Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in hardcover 2010 and by University Press of Kansas in paperback in 2013. He is also co-author of THE PROGENY: JUSTICE WILLIAM J. BRENNAN’S FIGHT TO PRESERVE THE LEGACY OF NEW YORK TIMES V. SULLIVAN, published by ABA Publishing in 2014.
At the Washington College of Law, he serves as an adviser to and was past associate director of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, in which Washington College of Law students teach constitutional law in the public high schools of Washington, D.C. He also is faculty adviser to the Moot Court Honor Society and serves on the advisory boards of the American University Law Review, Administrative Law Review and the Journal of Gender, Social Policy and Law. In the ABA, Wermiel was most recently a member of the Standing Committee on the Silver Gavel Awards, served as chair of the publications committee of CRSJ, and is a member of the editorial advisory boards of Communications Lawyer, the quarterly publication of the Forum on Communications Law, and Human Rights, the quarterly of CRSJ. He also co-chairs the Free Speech Free Press Committee of CRSJ. In January 2018, CRSJ honored Wermiel with the Robert F. Drinan Award for dedication and service to the section.