Stanford Law School Gathers to Celebrate the Start of the 2022-2023 School Year

On September 28th, the Stanford Law School (SLS) community convened in a sunny Canfield Courtyard for the school’s fourth annual convocation ceremony. Students, faculty, and staff sat together under a wide and airy tent facing east towards the center of the Stanford University campus to celebrate the start of a new academic year at the law school. 

The ceremony commenced with a land acknowledgment of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe by Carson Olivia James Smith, JD ‘25 (BA ‘19). Dr. Amina Darwish, Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, the Rev. Dr. Colleen Hallagan Preuninger, and the Rev. Dr. Sakena Young-Scraggs then gave the invocation. Following the invocation, Sierra Martinez, JD ‘08 (BA ‘03) and Program Director on the National Policy Team at Energy Foundation, delivered the alumni address. Student remarks by Haley Chow, JD ‘24, Stefan Suazo, JD ‘24, and Janka Deli, JD ‘23, then preceded remarks by Jenny S. Martinez, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean. The ceremony closed with the awarding of the Barbara Allen Babcock Award and a benediction by Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert, the Stanford Dean for Religious & Spiritual Life.

“Listening is an undervalued legal skill. To be persuasive, listening is absolutely critical.”

During his speech, Sierra Martinez, who focuses on optimizing energy use across the utility, industrial, and buildings sectors, spoke about the broad career opportunities afforded by a Stanford Law degree, outlining his own path following graduation. Although his career path was not always easy, especially following a layoff due to the 2008 recession, Martinez said he found great fulfillment in his career U-turns, including volunteering for Obama’s campaign and later working in the energy industry.  

Stanford Law School Gathers to Celebrate the Start of the 2022-2023 School Year

Touching on his experience working with opposing counsel and decision makers with whom he had to convince of his side of an argument, Martinez urged the audience to really listen to and learn from those with views that differ from one’s own. He called on the Stanford Law School community to help in the battle against injustice and to use the power of the law and the power of being a Stanford lawyer to “bridge our differences and to do it with integrity.” Martinez finished his address by urging the Stanford Law students in the audience to lean into what drives and impassions them.

“All I knew is when I would read an article about a clean energy technology I felt jazzed and then when I would read an article about climate devastation and displacement, I felt concerned,” Martinez said. “My recommendation to you is to listen to what speaks to you. Follow what tugs on your heartstrings.”

“There is something really special about this place when it’s full of students who are eager to learn and explore the various opportunities that are presented to them.”

The Stanford Law Association co-presidents, Haley Chow and Stefan Suazo, spoke to the gathered audience members in a joint speech. Chow talked about the incredible community Stanford Law School provides its students and how opportunities will pop up when you show a particular interest in something. Suazo encouraged the students gathered to get involved in the community and exercise their minds. “Law school, and this law school especially, in the wake of the pandemic, is a great place to see that the way things are is not necessarily the way things have to be. At this school, making changes or making something happen often starts with knocking on the door,” Suazo said.

“With talent comes responsibility, with privilege comes obligation, with opportunity comes duty.”

Janka Deli, a fourth-year JSD candidate, spoke about the “immense privilege of studying here” and urged students to feel grateful for all of the people who have gotten them to this point in their lives. She prompted students to “pay their privilege forward” and have their sense of mission drive them through the academic year and beyond. 

“Our paths at Stanford Law School may greatly differ… regardless, our time here is an intense period of intellectual and personal growth and a phase of transition and transformation,” Deli said. 

“Your job during your time here is to explore and figure out what path will be meaningful to you.”

Stanford Law School Gathers to Celebrate the Start of the 2022-2023 School Year 1

In her address, Dean Martinez started out by cataloging the breadth and depth of identities, interests, and talents of the entering class at Stanford Law School (from one student who biked 4300 miles to raise awareness for refugees to another who speaks Ancient Greek). Despite challenging times nationally and internationally, Martinez said she was “filled with a profound sense of optimism” given the next generation of lawyers who will have an essential role to play in a democratic society. She urged students to explore the values that are important to them and to turn their attention outward. Martinez finished her speech by encouraging those gathered to find common ground in a polarized world. “I know that our collective future is bright because, in a few years, all of you will be focusing your considerable talents and energy on making a difference in a myriad of ways across the globe,” Martinez said. 

Professor Alicia Thesing, the second winner of the Barbara Allen Babcock Award

Jenny Martinez went on to award Alicia Thesing, director of Legal Research and Writing, with the Barbara Allen Babcock Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award was established in 2020 to honor Babcock, the first woman member of the SLS faculty, who passed away in 2020. The award recognizes instructors teaching in the 1L required curriculum who promote inclusive learning, intellectual rigor, and commitment to the highest standards of professional integrity, mentorship, and service. Thesing was recognized for her dedication to teaching and legal writing along with her kindness. One student said that they “could write an anthem on [Thesing’s] amazingness.”

“[May we be] keenly aware always of the vital role of law in weaving and reweaving the very fabric of our shared society”

Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert concluded the ceremony with a benediction on the advantages that come with attending Stanford Law School and the intelligence that each student already possesses. Following the ceremony, students, faculty, and staff attended a reception commemorating the beginning of the year.

Watch the 2022 Stanford Law School Convocation