The UConn School of Law honored the Class of 2021, whose members overcame the challenges of a global pandemic, in a virtual ceremony on May 16, 2021.
The lessons of "this past difficult year" have been many, Judge Alexandra D. DiPentima, former chief judge of the Connecticut Appellate Court, told the graduates in a video presentation.
"We learned that our justice system -- statewide and nationally -- needs attention," she said, "that our glorious profession of lawyering is being transformed in significant ways by technology, for instance, and that all of us need to listen, and not only to those with whom we agree, to open our minds, and to use our lawyer minds to better our state and our country by restoring confidence in our system of justice."
"I wish the Class of 2021 not so much good luck as the ability, which this year has certainly taught you, to use difficult challenges as opportunities for new ideas, paths and actions towards a better world," she said. "You're more than up to the challenge."
Dean Eboni S. Nelson also reflected on the challenges and lessons of the past year. "I stand here in awe of each of you as I think about the perseverance you have demonstrated and all that you have accomplished during your law school career, especially over the past 14 months," she told the graduates, speaking from the Reading Room in William F. Starr Hall. The experience has made the graduates stronger, she said, and in combination with the skills and knowledge they obtained in law school, has equipped them to succeed.
"You will help solve the most difficult and complex problems of our time," Nelson said. "You will be the voice for those whose voices have been silenced, ignored or discounted. As you do, you will advance the fulfillment of our country’s promise that everyone is afforded equal protection of the law."
Most of the JD graduates have not been on campus since March 2020, when the law school turned to virtual instruction as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Among the students studying for an LLM, or Master of Laws degree, most never came to Hartford. Completing the degree typically takes one academic year, and many LLM students spent it in another country, studying thousands of miles and many time zones away from the campus.
Muhammet Ekram Aksoy, speaking on behalf of the LLM students, credited the faculty with making remote learning work for the students. "We had almost had no difficulties during this process except the time zone difference," he said.
Demery Ormrod and Mallori Thompson, speaking together on behalf of the Day Division students, called the Class of 2021 "the class that can do hard things." And Chelsea McCallum, speaking for the Evening Division students, reminded them that they had "survived the long nights, the major assignments and exams that inevitably lined up with those major deadlines at work, and the shift to working and learning from home."
"You can handle anything this world throws at you," she said.
In addition the virtual ceremony, 2021 graduates were invited to a live ceremony at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on May 8.