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2023 Community Member of the Year Award

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We are delighted to announce that UCLI’s executive director, Kaitlyn Pieper, has been selected by the Utah State Bar Commission to receive the 2023 Community Member of the Year Award! The Community Member of the Year Award is “Awarded to a non-lawyer member of the community who demonstrates outstanding service toward the creation of a better public understanding of the legal profession and the administration of justice, the judiciary or the legislative process.” A distinguished list of community members have received the Award may be viewed here.

Kaitlyn’s nominator, Cliff Parkinson is the UCLI Community Outreach Co-Chair and said in part, “Kaitlyn spends her days introducing underrepresented populations to the Bar and explains how the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion is trying to close the gap between what the Bar looks like and what the population of Utah looks like.” Kaitlyn expresses her gratitude to the UCLI board for the opportunity to work so closely with incredible members of the legal profession, as well as members of the community at large, on matters of importance to all Utahns. Kaitlyn also thanks the Utah State Bar for this honor and for the many ways they support and empower UCLI and its mission. 

The award was presented to Kaitlyn on November 17 at the 2023 Fall Forum at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. 

Congratulations to our 2023 UCLI LSAT Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship Recipients

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UCLI recently awarded the UCLI LSAT Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship to four recipients. 2023 marks the third time the scholarships have been awarded. The scholarship is aimed at expanding opportunities for students pursuing legal education who have a strong record of community service and a commitment to advancing equity and inclusion. College students, recent graduates, and others in the state of Utah anticipating taking the LSAT within the current or following year when the scholarship is granted are invited to apply. We congratulate the winners and wish them luck as they take the next step in their journeys toward becoming legal professionals. Learn more about the four incredible 2023 recipients below:



Victoria Roberts

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Utah Valley University, I have also been trying to gain practical legal experience through working as a paralegal for the past two years. As a first generation college student, I have had to navigate completing my education while balancing real-world work. In addition to my studies and paralegal role, I volunteer time as a translator for immigration attorneys. Through this work, I have been able to support immigrants and develop my language skills. As a political science major, I am deeply interested in policy, law, and social change. I have high hopes to apply my education and experiences to a career in law after graduation. I am proud to be a first generation college student and look forward to all the opportunities ahead as I complete my degree. I’m extremely grateful for this scholarship opportunity as I make my way towards applying to law school.



Khai Ronquillo

My name is Khai Ronquillo and I am a senior at the University of Utah double-majoring in Political Science and Economics. I am originally from Las Vegas, NV. As a first-generation pre-law student it has been very rewarding to strive towards my career aspirations of being the first lawyer in my family. Funding law school is difficult and scholarships like these mean the world for helping me overcome financial barriers. Receiving this scholarship from the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion is truly an honor and it excites me to think that I will be taking the LSAT soon and working towards achieving a life goal. 



Gabriela Villalobos

Gabriela Villalobos graduated from the University of Utah as a first-generation student in May 2022, earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology and international studies with a minor in economics. Throughout her university experience, she engaged in multiple organizations dedicated to breaking down barriers that exist for first-generation and Latinx students in the systems of higher education through college + career readiness and community belonging. With a passion for community and economic development, she previously interned at Accion Opportunity Fund, a non-profit supporting small business owners. Gabby also serves as a mentor in the We Rise First-Generation College Program. Currently, she is a financial crime analyst at Goldman Sachs, merging her interest in law and finance.



Erica Webb

Erica Webb is a senior at Brigham Young University studying economics, math, and environmental science. She is passionate about women’s issues and environmental stewardship. Recently, she has spent much of her free time working with an environmental advocacy group focused on preserving the Great Salt Lake. She plans to attend law school, and eventually hopes to use her JD to work for the government or a nonprofit in order to help marginalized communities and the environment. She is extremely grateful for the financial relief this scholarship will offer as she prepares for law school, since her husband plans to apply to and attend medical school concurrently.

Women Leaders – Promoting Equality in the Justice System

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On Friday, November 10 UCLI had the unique opportunity to host a workshop for a group of esteemed visitors. The workshop was titled “Women Leaders – Promoting Equality in the Justice System; A Regional Project for the Near East and North Africa.” The workshop participants were invited to the United States under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The State Department invited UCLI to host a half-day workshop that focused on leadership development for women in the legal profession. Together with the Utah State Bar, who provided a venue and expertise, we welcomed four women from Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia and had a great day together learning from respected members of Utah’s legal community. 

First, workshop participants heard from Michelle Oldroyd, Director of Professional Education and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at the Utah State Bar, who provided an introductory overview of the topic. Her remarks were followed by Session 1: Equality in Utah’s Justice System. Jon Wayas, Associate Director of the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion, moderated a panel discussion with Melinda Bowen, Attorney at Snow Christensen & Martineau; Jennifer Yim, Administrative Director at the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole; and Martha Knudson, Executive Director of Utah State Bar’s Well-Being Committee for the Legal Profession. They discussed challenges and to equality in Utah and spoke about principles for achieving greater parity for women, no matter where in the world we are. Session 2 was on the topic of Equal Access to Education and we heard from Mr John Arthur, 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year at Meadowlark Elementary; Barbara Melendez, Director of Diversity Equity and Belonging at Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School; and Isabel Moreno, Director Of Admissions And Financial Aid at University of Utah S. J. Quinney College of Law. Each brought a great perspective about the importance of education as an equalizer and shared ideas of how to engage more girls and women at the K-12 and higher education levels. Finally, we were honored to hear from Justice Paige Petersen, Justice of the Utah Supreme Court for Session 3 on the topic of The Changing Face of Leadership. Justice Petersen spoke about changing laws for women throughout the history of the United States and discussed how the landscape in Utah has been changing in recent decades. A robust and interactive discussion and lunch were then enjoyed by all. 

UCLI expresses its gratitude to the Utah State Bar for allowing us to meet in the Law and Justice Center and for its excellent hospitality. We are also grateful to Utah Global Diplomacy for facilitating this exchange. Finally, thank you to the outstanding participants and presenters – we loved getting to know you and were honored to gather to discuss important topics and learn from one another. 

UCLI Associate Director, Jon Wayas Participates in the Utah State Bar Leadership Academy

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UCLI Associate Director Jon Wayas was chosen to be a part of the 2023 class of the Utah State Bar Leadership Academy. Each year 12 Utah attorneys are chosen to participate in this program. Generally, participants have been attorneys for 10 years or less. The program is a chance for lawyers to learn leadership skills and build camaraderie with the other members of their cohort.  The program aims to put participants on a path to become leaders in their own firms and organizations, as well as in the wider Utah State Bar and legal community. As part of the program, participants are also required to serve on a bar committee for at least one year. Jon began serving on the Character and Fitness committee in the summer. This committee reviews applications for those seeking to take the Utah State Bar Examination. The program has been a great benefit to Jon in his work with UCLI. 

The Leadership Academy started with a retreat where attorneys participate in workshops and social activities to quickly build trust and a sense of community. The group then met monthly to learn from respected attorneys and experts. These meetings included topics such as bystander training, how to have difficult conversations, and how to better advocate for yourself in your career. The group also had the opportunity to meet with the Utah Supreme Court to gain perspective and advice on career goals and growth. Of the program Jon says, “The program has helped me gain a close group of friends I would not have met otherwise. It has been great to see the reciprocal help we have been able to give each other in our various professional roles. On a personal level, it has been great to have people to turn for support, and to celebrate our personal and professional successes. I am immensely grateful to have been chosen to participate in the program this year. I would encourage everyone to apply in the future.”

Click here to apply for the 2024 year. The application deadline is November 17, 2023.

Donor Spotlight: Law School Admission Council (LSAC)

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The Utah Center for Legal Inclusion (UCLI) would not be able to successfully run its programming without the support of incredible donors and partners. One of our recent, first-time donors is the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). LSAC is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to advance law and justice by encouraging diverse, talented individuals to study law and by supporting their enrollment and learning journeys from pre-law through practice. 

UCLI and LSAC share a common vision for the future of the legal profession, and UCLI is honored to receive the LSAC DEI Pipeline Grant for programming during 2024. 

Thanks to this generous grant, UCLI will be able to launch a new program: the 2024 UCLI and Kirton McConkie Pre-law Fellowship. This Fellowship aims to support up to 10 individuals interested in the study of law. The Fellowship includes an enrichment series of 10 seminars on topics related to law school, the legal field, and law school application; access to a designated attorney mentor and law student mentor; a fully paid LSAT course; and reimbursement of certain related expenses. Additional information about eligibility and programming is available here; interested individuals may apply here. We express deep gratitude to the additional donors who have made this program possible: Kirton McConkie, Utah Bar Foundation, and the University of Utah Office of General Counsel. 

We express our gratitude to LSAC and look forward to a collaborative relationship in the years to come!

*This project received funding from the Law School Admission Council, Inc. (LSAC).  The opinions and conclusions contained in this document are the opinions and conclusions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of LSAC.

UCLI Fall 2023 Pre-Law Symposium

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On Friday, October 20, 2023 the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion held the third UCLI Pre-law Symposium. This was made possible by the University of Utah SJ Quinney College of Law, and their talented and capable event and IT staff. This marks the second Symposium held with the school, and UCLI is grateful for their generosity and expertise. The event was attended by 54 students who ranged from freshman undergraduates to professionals seeking career changes.

The symposium continues to help close the gap between a legal education and the current place a given student finds themselves. This is achieved through support from the admissions offices of SJ Quinney College of Law, represented by Associate Dean Reyes Aguilar, and the BYU J Reuben Clark Law School, represented by Assistant Dean Tony Grover. Students also heard from Justin Zieman, the Regional Director of AccessLex Institute, a non-profit which provides support and resources to pre-law and law students.

The second panel gave attendees perspectives on what to expect during law school. The panel consisted of four current law students, Rachel Passey and Bree Spaulding from SJ Quinney, and Elena Guanuna and Jehicob Torres from J. Reuben Clark. The panel was moderated by attorney Gabriela Mena of the firm Skordas & Caston. The panel provides a great opportunity to understand what to expect in law school, and provides encouragement to attendees that law school is hard but manageable.

For the second year attendees had the privilege to be taught in a mock class given by Associate Dean Louisa Heiny of SJ Quinney. Dean Heiny taught a criminal law case in an approachable and engaging way. The mock class is a great way for students to understand what to expect from a law school class, and to begin to gain confidence that they can see themselves being successful in this type of setting. 

The final panel of the day was delivered in partnership with the Utah Black Lawyers Association. Attorney Samantha Frazier of Coil Law was joined by panelists Zakia Richardson, in-house counsel at Pluralsight, Engels Tejeda, Partner at Holland & Hart, and Beatryx Washington, General Counsel at OC Tanner. The panel highlighted the breadth of opportunities available to attorneys once they enter practice. It was also a chance to highlight how attorneys navigate cultural and life balance challenges to find success in their careers. 

The day ended with a keynote address by US Attorney Trina Higgins. Trina is the first woman in Utah to be presidentially appointed to the US Attorney position. Trina has been an ardent supporter of the UCLI Pre-law Symposium from the first event. Last April she gave of her time to visit with attendees at our first Symposium. It was a pleasure to have her back as the keynote to hear her amazing story, and words of encouragement. Trina has had an amazing career, and has shown through her actions how to build more equitable and inclusive work environments.

UCLI expresses gratitude to all those who participated in creating this educational and inspirational experience for those who attend. We again express our gratitude to the team at SJ Quinney who made this event possible. We also express thanks to our sponsors, Ballard Spahr, Michael Best, Nelson & Naegle, The Lone Peak Valuation Group, and the ADR Section of the Utah State Bar. We are grateful for the participation of these incredible attendees and wish them well on their journeys to law school.

UCLI Highlighted in Law 360 Article

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UCLI Associate Director Jon Wayas recently participated in a panel discussion with fellow Utah Attorneys at the Federal Bar Association’s national Convention in Memphis, TN. The panel was a chance to highlight the inclusion efforts being made by various organizations across Utah’s legal community. As a result of this panel, Jon Wayas was interviewed by an editor at the website Law 360. The interview and subsequent article are a great opportunity to highlight UCLI on a national level. The article can be read here or here.

Staying in the Game CLE Event

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On October 5, 2023, the Utah Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, in partnership with the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion, the Women Lawyers of Utah, and the Utah State Bar were proud to present Staying in the Game, a CLE event centered on the topic of Recruiting, Retaining, and Promoting the Advancement of Women and Diverse Talent in the Legal Profession. We gathered at noon and enjoyed a delicious catered lunch from Roula’s Cafe for two hours at the Orrin G. Hatch U.S. Courthouse’s Jury Assembly Room or via Zoom. The program was designed to encourage women and diverse talent to get in —and stay in—the game and to address how practitioners and organizations can act as champions in recruiting, retaining, and promoting the advancement of women and diverse talent in the legal profession.

The first hour was a Judicial Panel featuring the Honorable Carolyn B. McHugh, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the Honorable Daphne A. Oberg, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, the Honorable Cecilia M. Romero, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, and the Honorable Peggy Hunt, Bankruptcy Judge, U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah. The panel was moderated by Artemis D. Vamianakis, Fabian VanCott. The judges discussed lots of important topics and issues, including how they “got in the game” and what factors allowed them to “stay in the game” and get to where they are today. They shared their motivations for sticking around, champions in their career who helped promote their advancement, and policies that allowed them to succeed. They also addressed the discouraging lack of professionalism and civility from opposing counsel that attorneys sometimes feel, and discussed ways that attorneys can rely on the rules of professionalism and civility to push back against these situations. They rounded it off with fantastic advice for law students and young attorneys in the crowd about how to find their place in the profession, use their voice, and have the courage to stick around despite difficulties. 

The second hour was a Practitioner Panel with attorneys offering practical strategies and best practices for firms and organizations at various levels. The presenters included Tracy S. Combs, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Christina M. Jepson, Parsons Behle & Latimer; Andrea T. Martinez, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah; Caroline A. Olsen, Zimmerman Booher; Artemis D. Vamianakis, Fabian VanCott; and was moderated by Jenifer Tomchak; Tomchak Skolout Law. The panel addressed a number of important issues, including discussions on how law firms can navigate the new climate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision and ensure that their diversity programs and policies are still thriving despite the legal pushback. They also discussed various programs and policies that they have seen to be effective among legal employers.  

We were grateful that so many members of the judiciary and legal profession, as well as law students and students interested in attending law school, attended and benefited from the collective wisdom and advice of the panelists. There were over 200 people listening in the room or virtually. Thank you for your support of these important topics and for everything you do to make the legal profession a more inclusive place for people of all identities and backgrounds. 

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Highlighting Utah’s Efforts to Increase Inclusion at the Federal Bar Association National Convention

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Utah and UCLI were well represented at the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) National Convention last month in Memphis, Tennessee. A five member panel made up of Jen Tomchack (Tomchack Skolout), Ross Romero (Inclusion Strategies), Michele Oldroyd (Utah State Bar and UCLI Leadership Council), Melinda Bowen (Snow, Christensen & Martineau and UCLI Co-President), and Jon Wayas (UCLI Associate Director) delivered a CLE presentation moderated by Jon Hafen. Jon Hafen is a UCLI board member, and was sworn-in as the new President of the Federal Bar Association at the convention. The presentation was titled, “Community Engagement Efforts to Diversify the Legal Community – Examples from Utah.” The presentation was well attended and gave panelists the chance to highlight the wide ranging programs and collaborations taking place to make Utah’s legal market more inclusive and diverse.

The program began with Ross Romero painting the picture of Utah’s changing demographics, and why diversity is so important to the legal market and to the business community in Utah. Michele Oldroyd followed by recounting what is happening from the Utah State Bar perspective with rulemaking and an increased effort on attorney wellbeing and mental health. Jen Tomchack was able to show the great work the Utah chapter of the FBA has been doing to support inclusion, specifically in regards to women in the legal profession. This includes the “Staying in the Game” initiative which kicks off with a CLE event on October 5, 2023. Melinda Bowen highlighted the great work being done by affinity groups like the Utah Minority Bar Association, LGBT and Allied Lawyers of Utah, Women Lawyers of Utah, and the Utah Black Lawyers Association. Melinda, who is a founding member of UCLI, shared the story of the organization’s creation. This led into the final portion where Jon Wayas shared about a number of the great programs and scholarships UCLI is currently offering. The presentation ended with a short Q&A.

UCLI is grateful to Jon Hafen and the FBA Convention’s planning committee for giving this group the opportunity to share the great work going on here in the State of Utah. UCLI continues to have great opportunities to share and teach through Continuing Legal Education (CLE). We hope you will join us soon for the final installment of the “Pathways to Inclusion” CLE series for 2023, and the great offerings we will have available throughout 2024.

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The Utah Tribal Intern Partnership: Forging New Connections

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Under the direction of the Community Outreach Co-Chair, Cliff Parkinson, UCLI has been creating new connections with vital groups in Utah – the tribal communities in whose traditional and ancestral homelands we live and work. UCLI respects the sovereignty of Utah’s tribes and respects the unique political relationship between tribes, states, and the federal government. We hope to find new ways to work together to ensure access to legal education and legal representation for members of Utah’s tribal communities. We were honored to present at the 17th annual Governor’s Native American Summit in June 2023, as well as to attend the 30th Annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference in August 2023. UCLI especially hopes to strengthen pathway programs for Native American youth interested in the legal profession. It is our hope to facilitate pipelines to help them attend law school. To this end, UCLI is launching a new pilot initiative: the Utah Tribal Intern Partnership.

The Utah Tribal Intern Partnership pairs an intern with a legal employer specializing in Native American law. This semester, Tsosie Law PLLC has agreed to partner with us to provide relevant work for an intern. Paul Tsosie is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation – Blacksheep Clan, and an impressive legal practitioner. He focuses on Criminal Defense, Child Welfare, as well as Federal Indian Law and Policy. Mr. Tsosie has represented various different Indian tribes as general counsel and served a 3-year political appointment as the Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, Washington D.C. Working with Tsosie Law this semester is UCLI intern Sunni Begay – a member of the Navajo Nation and a first generation college graduate with a BA in Political Science and minor in Legal Studies and American Indian Studies. She is passionate about access to legal representation and has worked with various Indigenous initiatives to educate the community about Native culture and issues. 

A month into the internship, Mr. Tsosie describes his experience as very positive, as there are very limited opportunities for Native American students to gain valuable experience encouraging them to seek a future in the legal profession. Usually, Mr. Tsosie only has the opportunity to work with currently enrolled Native American law students. However, this partnership has been beneficial not only to Sunni, but to the general Native American community itself in Utah. For example, Sunni helped Mr. Tsosie prepare for a meeting with tribal leaders, lawyers, state leadership, and other community leaders regarding the potential changes and improvements to the Indian Child Welfare system in the State of Utah. Sunni’s research helped guide the group to a better understanding of what other tribes were doing across the country. 

Sunni explains that for her, this experience so far has been essential to learning about different issues in Federal Indian law, especially pertaining to Utah. She has been able to learn about the various ways the Indian Child Welfare Act has been implemented in Utah and future legislation to continue to strengthen child welfare for Native children in the state. She has also had the opportunity to gather data surrounding the Native legal community in Utah for the betterment of Indigenous legal relations with other organizations and UCLI. This internship has expanded her view on the different ways legal services can be helpful to making a positive impact on her community and other Native peoples. 

UCLI hopes in the future to expand its partnerships with legal practitioners and students from Native American communities, and to leverage the incredible strength and talent that exists in these spaces for the benefit of Utahns everywhere. If you are a legal employer and are interested in accepting a UCLI intern in a future semester, reach out to

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