Since becoming director of admissions and diversity in September, Danielle Boardley has led an ambitious agenda of activities aimed at making the law school a more inclusive and welcoming environment.
Boardley, who previously served as associate director of admissions, has worked with students, faculty and staff on the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to sponsor a series of discussions and events that recognize and celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures and groups that make up the school community.
During the fall semester, a series of DiveIn events created a forum for discussion of topics from the criminalization of immigrants to the Holocaust to the disparities in the delivery of health care. Some DiveIn events featured roundtable discussions for students, faculty and staff to share their personal experiences of diversity at school, at work and in the broader community. Student organizations including the Black Law Students Association, the Drexel Catholic Law Society, the Health Law Society, the Jewish Law Student Association and the Latin American Law Students Association have co-sponsored the events.
“It’s wonderful to see members of the community taking part in conversations that require so much openness and trust,” Boardley said. “It has the potential to strengthen our community tremendously. It also gives our students fluency that will make them more effective advocates.”
Boardley also plans to launch a summer program aimed at helping minority college students in the tri-state area to prepare for law school.
DiveIn: the Immersion in Legal Education will provide a range of services and activities to approximately 10 college sophomores, juniors and seniors who are planning to apply to law schools.
“Our goal is to create a pipeline into the legal profession, especially for under-represented minorities,” she said. “It’s well known that the legal profession—and those it serves—would benefit from greater diversity among the ranks of lawyers. DiveIn ILE aims to help diversify law school admissions as a way of diversifying legal practice.”
DiveIn ILE will feature three distinct components: helping students prepare for the Law School Admissions Test, developing strategies for the overall admissions process and building skills they will need in law school, from writing to research and analysis.
Along the way, Boardley said, participants will learn from current Kline students as well as faculty and alumni.
The law school is working with the Drexel School of Education to craft activities that will help students overcome reading and writing barriers, and plans are being developed to allow students to break down a single case over the course of four to six weeks to focus on a specific skill set in research, writing or interviewing.
Unlike pipeline programs at some law schools, DiveIn ILE will not be limited to students who hope to attend Kline, Boardley said.
“We don’t want to make this a conditional program,” she said, citing research by the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence that 44 percent of black law school applicants in 2015 did not gain admissions offers at any law schools. “We want to help broaden the pool of students from under-represented populations who can attend law school. Period.”
In March, the law school will hold its second Diversity Pre-Law Day at the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy, offering workshops and panels for students who have recently applied to law school or are on the cusp of doing so.
In the meantime, Boardley is also working with faculty who are interested in incorporating discussions of topics including implicit bias and cross-cultural competencies in their classes.
Boardley notes that much of the activity she is pursuing grew out of the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee efforts over the past year, including surveys of students, faculty and staff that identified opportunities to make the school a welcoming and supportive environment for all.
“It’s uplifting to work with a community that values diversity and inclusion,” she said. “Despite some differences that inevitably exist, we share that as an important goal.”