HBCU Preview Day Prepares Students for Law School Application Process

Visiting undergraduates get a peek into a life of law

Emmanuel Lewis (standing, left), a UM law student from Jackson, and Kaehla Outlaw, a law student from Starkville, talk to a group of visiting undergraduates from Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Rust College during the School of Law’s first HBCU Preview Day. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Students from four of the state’s historically black colleges and universities recently visited the University of Mississippi School of Law to see what the school offers and introduce them to the many resources, including faculty and staff, available to assist in the law school application process.

The preview day is part of an effort to strengthen relationships with Mississippi’s HBCUs, build a more diverse and equitable campus in line with the universitywide Pathways to Equity strategic plan and help build a legal workforce more reflective of the state as a whole.

Chancellor Glenn Boyce welcomed the visiting students by challenging them not to leave with any questions, and to be sure to meet someone who can help them on their way to and through law school.

“We believe deeply that it is our responsibility to ensure that our campus is welcoming to all students who come here in search of an education that will transform their lives and the communities that we serve,” Boyce said. “Our faculty and staff are here to help talented students learn and define how they want to leave their mark on the world.

“That supportive environment is a foundational part of a rich learning experience. My hope is that you will leave from your visit understanding the University of Mississippi in a fuller light, and with the knowledge that we want you to be a part of our present – and our future.”

Susan Duncan, the school’s dean, said she hopes events such as this show prospective students that going to law school can be part of their future.

“Many Mississippians did not see attorneys who looked like them growing up,” Duncan said. “Not only do we want to get a more diverse group of students through the door, but we want to ensure there is a climate in which they can thrive, and then ultimately represent the public when they get out.

“To reach that goal, the law school passed its own comprehensive DEI plan in fall 2020 and we are excited about the progress we are making.”

Throughout the day, dozens of students from Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Rust College learned about the admissions process, participated in a mock class, toured the school and heard from a diversity panel consisting of HBCU alumni who are UM law students or recent graduates.

Undergraduate students from Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University participate in a mock law class during HBCU Preview Day at the UM School of Law. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“We opened up the diversity panel to questions and the first question was, ‘What is it like being Black at Ole Miss,'” said Joshua Tucker, a recruiter and 2020 graduate of the law school who helped organize the preview day. “When we posed the questions, everyone seemed surprised.

“Most of the time, students want to ask that question but don’t know how. So when we said that, it’s like they knew this was a safe space.”

Tucker drew from his own experience as an undergraduate and then law student at Ole Miss. He is a first-generation college student who never considered attending UM until he attended a summer session.

Keyjaun Meeks, a junior Mississippi Valley State University pre-law and government and politics double major from Indianola, said he never considered UM as an option. But after the preview day, he said he was pleasantly surprised and has added UM to his list of law schools to apply for admission.

“Just listening today, and being able to sit in a mock class, it gave me an insight into what I could potentially get from Ole Miss,” Meeks said. “I really enjoyed the class and, honestly, it wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t think it would be led by a Black instructor. I thought it would be all-white.” 

Roderick Talley, a junior psychology and political science double major at Jackson State University and Durant native, said speaking with faculty and students made him feel confident about applying.

“After speaking with someone and sharing my story, it made me feel a lot more confident in the fact that I think I have a good chance of getting in here,” Talley said. “Not only because I did my part on the grades and LSAT, but that my story is compelling enough to push me over the edge.”

Talley and Meeks each said they feel called to go to law school so that they can fight disparities in the state’s criminal justice system, which has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and consistently imprisons a disproportionate number of Black Mississippians.

“If I can get myself in the middle of that justice system, then I can make a change in that incarceration rate,” Meeks said. “I want to fight from the inside, and from inside the courtroom.”

Tucker said he was happy to see the number of HBCU students and faculty participating in the event, and is especially excited to see the level of engagement from the visiting students.

“We often aspire to be what we see,” Tucker said. “Most of the students, like myself, will be the first attorneys in our families.

“Because of the HBCU Preview Day, students from Mississippi’s HBCUs had the opportunity to meet and learn from Black attorneys here in Mississippi. I think today’s event is reflective of the direction we are planning to take this law school.”

For more information about legal education at UM, visit https://law.olemiss.edu/.