22nd Annual Sylvania Woods Conference Explores Pathways into the Legal Profession
April 18, 2018
On Tuesday, April 17, American University Washington College of Law proudly presented the 22nd Annual Sylvania Woods Conference on African Americans and the Law. This annual conference addresses—through the participation of practicing lawyers, jurists, alumni, faculty, students, and administrators—matters of law and associated issues that affect African-American life and culture. The theme for this year’s conference was: “Informed by the present, Inspired for the future.”
The conference began with a panel presentation where speakers addressed “Pipelines, Pathways and Ladders into the Legal Profession.” Participants included: Joni Wiredu, director of the AUWCL Office of Academic Excellence; Jarrod Loadholt, director of legislative and regulatory affairs for Credit Karma; Jana Taylor, associate general counsel at Urban One; Venroy July, partner at Miles & Stockbridge; Stephanie Peters, director of Federal Affairs at Microsoft; and AUWCL Associate Professor Llezli Green Coleman.
Panelists spoke of the need to be flexible in finding their path and growing throughout their careers. “The benefit of being an attorney in D.C. is the flexibility in the different roles and areas in the legal profession,” said Loadholt. “Lawyers sometimes make decisions that force them into a box. You don’t have to do that – you have options. I never expected to be doing what I am now, but found that through exploring different roles and networking, opportunities came my way.”
Taylor added, “No matter what your first job after graduation, do it really well. Be a sponge. You don’t know who is watching or what opportunities will come from it.”
The panel presentation was followed by a networking reception led by the Black Alumni Association.
At the Awards Dinner, Donald Cravins, Jr., senior vice president for Policy and executive director of the Washington Bureau at the National Urban League, gave the keynote speech. Cravins previously served as chief of staff to Louisiana Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. He has also been staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Prior to that, Cravins was a member of the Louisiana House and then Senate. He is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University and serves as a Major in the District of Columbia Army National Guard Judge Advocate General Corps.
AUWCL staff and alumni were pleased to present the following awards:
- Rising Star Award: Mark A. Dunham, Jr. ‘18
- Leadership Award: Michael Solomon, Springhill High School, Class of ’20
- Hairston Alumni Award: Judge Tonya M. Jones Bosier ’00
- North Star Award: Judge Emmet G. Sullivan
“This year’s Woods conference allowed students and alumni the opportunity to gain insight, tips, and words of wisdom from practitioners across the legal field,” said Kendra Brown, senior director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the law school. "It was wonderful to hear speakers address the historical significance of the African American lawyer and the importance of the intersectionality of shared experiences which help to shape one’s legal career.”