The California Western Commencement ceremony marked a very significant milestone this year—a milestone of which Dean Niels Schaumann is particularly proud.
“2019 saw the largest number of graduating Black Law Students Association (BLSA) members,” says Schaumann. “At California Western, we are proud of our diverse student body as we believe it enriches the academic and interpersonal experiences of law school, and this graduating class is a testament to this belief.”
BLSA at California Western is a chapter of the national organization (National Black Law Students Association) and provides a forum and support system for Black and minority law students. Its national mission is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
Kalkidan Temesgen, one of the class of 2019 graduates and California Western’s BLSA President for 2018-2019 echoes the Dean’s sentiment and gives an insight into the growing number of black and minority graduates.
“When the Cal Western administration and BLSA work together, we find that we are able to retain the incoming 1Ls,” says Temesgen. “In turn, more students of color can graduate and move into the legal field.”
Temesgen, whose parents emigrated from Ethiopia, had wanted to be a lawyer from the age of 7 and is happy to be fulfilling her dream at California Western.
“After undergrad at Cal State Northridge, I knew I wanted to move back to San Diego for law school,” says Temesgen. “When looking at the law schools in this area, Cal Western was the clear choice for me. It had the best alumni networks and diversity services.”
Temesgen was part of BLSA from the very beginning of her time at California Western and credits the organization for having got her through the rigors of law school.
“BLSA is extremely important to students of color at Cal Western,” says Temesgen. “We have created a sense of community between all who have joined BLSA. Having a community to fall back on was invaluable.”
According to Temesgen, together with the law school, BLSA offers networking opportunities, community service programs, large scale conferences, mentorship connections, and so much more.
“I think Cal Western has allowed me the ability to have a lot of hands-on training,” says Temesgen. “I’ve been interning at the San Diego Public Defender’s Office since the summer after my 1L year. I don’t think I would have been a successful intern without the help of Cal Western’s services.”
Temesgen is proud of her BLSA class, and she believes the groups’ accomplishments mean a tremendous amount to her community.
“So many of us have actually secured jobs and post-Bar positions for after the July Bar,” she says. “We can turn around and mentor the students coming after us.”
Temesgen gives California Western’s Student and Diversity Services a special shout-out for being particularly helpful and supportive of BLSA members.
“Everyone at Student and Diversity services has helped us more than I could explain,” says Temesgen. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention Dean Finster, Stacie Patterson, and, of course, Riley Davis.”
Looking to the future, Temesgen is proof of one of BLSA’s leading tenets—effectuating change in the legal community—as she has accepted a post Bar position at the San Diego Public Defender’s Office.
“I’m hoping to transition into an attorney position once I pass the Bar,” she says.