Andrew Houston ’07, a member of the UC Hastings Board of Directors, often shares his life story with law students. He talks about being a first-generation college student, who attended community college, before getting his undergraduate degree and ultimately, his law degree.
“UC Hastings is special to me because my law degree from the university has allowed me to accelerate my path to economic and social mobility, strengthen my community, and reduce barriers to opportunity for me,” he said when he joined the board in April.
In law school, Houston said he gained a sense of community and camaraderie through his involvement with the UC Hastings Black Law Students Association (BLSA).
Now, Houston – co-Chair of the UC Hastings Black Alumni Council – is throwing his support behind a new scholarship to assist other BLSA students.
The Black Alumni Scholarship Fund, which kicked off with a Sept. 27 event on the Sky Deck of the Cotchett Law Center, will award scholarships to BLSA members who demonstrate financial need. The grants will help cover the costs of law school and studying for the bar exam.
“It’s a way to assist them in easing the burden financially so they can focus more on their studies and studying for the bar instead of constantly worrying about their finances,” Houston said.
The council is working to raise $100,000 necessary for an endowed scholarship, which, unlike a current-use fund, can continue in perpetuity through annual investments. “We’re trying to hit that $100,000 within five years,” Houston said. “Once we hit that number, it’s endowed forever.”
UC Hastings Chancellor & Dean David Faigman said he wholeheartedly supports efforts to establish the new fund. “This scholarship will help ease the debt burden that has become a feature of law school for too many of our students today,” Faigman said. “The enthusiasm for this effort was palpable at the event, and I look forward to working with Director Houston and other council leaders to make this scholarship a great success.”
About 50 people attended the launch event, including Hastings alumna Stephanie Hinds ’91, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. “The event was energetic and inspiring – a perfect way to get this scholarship launched,” said UC Hastings Chief Development Officer, Eric Dumbleton. “My team and I are thrilled to be partnering with the Black Alumni Council on this fundraising effort to support BLSA students.”
Mahleja Parnell ‘25, a BLSA member at UC Hastings, said the scholarship fund can help students with previous college debt or those with family members who take second or third jobs to help pay for law school.
Parnell said she had to take out extra loans to pay for child care during law school, “This scholarship really signifies that we’re not alone and that we have a community of alumni that look like us, who support us, who care about us, and I’m so grateful to have that.”
Other goals of the scholarship are to retain BLSA students through law school and diversify the legal field. UC Hastings also supports diverse students on campus through its First Generation Program, Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP), and California Scholars Program.
“This is another layer to show there is financial support and that there are alumni who do support current students and prospective students at UC Hastings,” Houston said.
BLSA co-president Nneoma Ibezim ’24 said the scholarship fund could go a long way in making BLSA students feel more valued and supported in law school, “We really are hoping to bolster retention and support, and this scholarship is another way to tangibly encourage students going forward.”
Another fundraiser is planned for March 2023 in Los Angeles. For more information about the scholarship, or to donate, click here.