While starting law school is a very unique experience for most new students, doing it in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it that much more. Howard University School of Law’s Class of 2023 students admit that their semester thus far has been like none other, but that choosing this law school was the best decision they could make during these times – due in large part to their participation in Orientation Week.
This academic year, Howard Law leadership used undoubted innovation in its approach to bring about a sense of normalcy for its newest students. Particularly for Orientation Week, it was the building of small cohorts called “houses” that helped to create and cement community. At the beginning of orientation, 14 houses with between 11 to 12 students in each house and one to two upper class orientation leaders were assigned to each house as house leaders. The houses were named after 14 alumni, seven women and seven men: Oliver Hill, J. Clay Smith, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Gabrielle McDonald, Judge Damon J. Keith, Emmet G. Sullivan, Letitia James, Mahala Dickerson, Pauli Murray, Charlotte E. Ray, Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, Vernon Jordan, Walter Washington and Charles D. King.
“The hope was to build a sense of community and connect students across sections where they may not have as many opportunities to connect with classmates from other sections in the virtual world,” said Adrienne Packard, director of Student Affairs and mastermind behind the Orientation Week concept.
Alumni were thrilled to have been recognized in this way.
“As a proud Howard University School of Law alum, I am honored the Class of 2023 selected me as one of the 14 alumni to recognize during these unprecedented times,” said Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
“I am honored and flattered to be included among so many legal giants,” said Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Court for the District of Columbia. “I hope the students will be inspired by the contributions to the fair administration of justice made by everyone.”
The students of the Class of 2023 are both robust in number and stature. With 155 enrolled students—108 (70 percent) women and 47 (30 percent) men—the average LSAT and UGPA is 153 and 3.35, respectively. The class is 72 percent African American. Eighty-two students are scholarship recipients. There are 30 states and three foreign countries represented. The students have 41 different undergraduate backgrounds, with Political Science the most represented. Additionally, there are 100 different undergraduate institutions represented, including Howard, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, University of Wisconsin, Williams College, University of Michigan, New York University, Princeton, Morehouse, Spelman, University of Southern California, Kennesaw State, Bates College, University of Pennsylvania, Lamar University, Columbia University and Amherst College. There are 17 students from Howard University’s undergraduate programs. Also, there are three LL.M. students in the Fall 2023 class. Two are domestic and one is international.
For 1L Howard Law student Nicholas Stubbs, from Atlanta, Orientation Week this year was “uplifting, inspiring, and informative.”
“I loved the house-themed format,” said Stubbs, a member of the J. Clay Smith House. “I was able to connect with my classmates on a personal and academic level. The breakout rooms were an innovative domain for getting to know my peers through a virtual medium. Also, the house-themed games were an interactive icebreaker that made my orientation experience enjoyable, even while on my laptop.”
The houses competed with each other in "house wars" throughout the week and received points for each day's challenge.
“The House-themed activities were a great way to get to know some of my classmates and to connect with upperclassmen leaders,” said Mattea Jones, 1L student from McKinney Texas – a proud member of the Letitia James House. “I loved getting to know more about the HUSL alumni and my classmates as we worked together on the different activities.”
At the end of the week, there was a winner of the "HUSL Cup," which comes with bragging rights for the house and a small gift for each member. This year’s HUSL Cup winner was Oliver Hill.
“We hope to continue activities that are "House" themed throughout the year to continue to foster their connections and keep (students) engaged with one another,” Packard said.
From this concept alone, Stubbs said the insight he gained about his Howard Law predecessors “ignited (his) flame of passion for serving (his) community.”
As the Class of 2023 progresses, Blackburne-Rigsby has this message to deliver:
“Although times are stressful and unknown right now, I hope you find your first year of law school challenging and rewarding. I look forward to celebrating your future success in the legal profession,” she said.