Feature Stories UMass Law: Worthy is the first UMass Law student to serve on the UMass Board of Trustees

Jehan Worthy, JD UMassD Student Trustee
Feature Stories UMass Law: Worthy is the first UMass Law student to serve on the UMass Board of Trustees
Worthy is the first UMass Law student to serve on the UMass Board of Trustees

She also holds positions with the UMass Law Alumni Association and the American Bar Association

After starting college at age 16 and graduating four years later, Jehan Worthy, JD candidate '24 thought it was too early to fulfill her goal of attending law school So, she took a detour; she earned a master's degree in teaching and taught history for seven years at three public high schools in the New York-New Jersey area.

A graduate of Bard College at Simon's Rock, an early college in western Massachusetts, Worthy was already familiar with the Bay State and wanted to attend the Commonwealth's only public law school: UMass Law. 

Worthy, who serves as the Special Assistant to the President of the UMass Law Alumni Association, was elected as the first law student to sit as the student representative on the UMass Board of Trustees.

And, at the ABA Annual Meeting in Denver, Worthy was sworn in as the Director of Legal Education of the Law Student Division Council and will serve concurrently as the student representative on the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Inspired by civil rights lawyers

"Teaching was a bit of a detour. I always wanted to be a lawyer," said Worthy. "In retrospect, I am glad I didn't go to law school immediately after Simon's Rock. I wasn't ready yet. I am a far better law student after many years of teaching than I would have been immediately after college.

Worthy said she was inspired by lawyers who served during the American civil rights movement, like Fred Gray from Alabama, who represented Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

"Lawyers are the ultimate advocates. During the civil rights movement, protesters and demonstrators needed legal support and advice to protect themselves and push the movement forward," said Worthy. "It was essential to the success of the movement. Fred Gray made a really big impact right out of law school."

UMass Law experience includes Michael Dukakis Public Service Internship

"What I love about UMass Law is that it feels like home," said Worthy, who lives in New Bedford. "I feel very connected to the community, my professors, and classmates. I have enjoyed so many of my classes and have loved working with many of my professors."

Worthy is a recipient of the Michael Dukakis Public Service Internship Award, which provided funding for her internship at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) last summer, where she was an SJC Rule 3:03 Counsel in the Housing Practice, which serves low-income and marginalized communities facing evictions.

She managed a caseload as a student attorney under the supervision of a practicing attorney, drafting and filing motions in court and meeting with clients and opposing counsel on a variety of cases.

Before HLAB, Worthy interned with the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston’s Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which serves Massachusetts- and Connecticut-based individual artists, arts nonprofits, and other arts and cultural organizations in civil matters. "Musicians, sculptors, and artists were matched with lawyers who answered their legal questions," Worthy explained.

She is grateful for her award and internships for giving her the practical experiences needed to be a practicing attorney after law school. Combined with her course of study at UMass Law, Worthy feels prepared to enter the legal field upon graduation.

Leadership activities on the SBA, ABA, and the UMass Law Alumni Association

For more than a year, Worthy was the liaison between the Student Bar Association (SBA) and the Law Alumni Board, sitting as the SBA representative on the Alumni Board and the alumni representative on the SBA. "Working with the UMass Law Alumni Association has been my most memorable experience. At first, I was so worried about working with a new group of people. But they welcomed me with open arms and have been incredibly supportive of me and my peers." 

This year the Alumni Association provided two professional headshot events for UMass Law students. Worhty helped organize the event so students may use those photos for their LinkedIn accounts and the Corsair Network. 

"I’m a facilitator between students and alumni," she added. "If a student needs something, I'll bring it to the association. I help to provide an exchange of information and extra support. I help to build connections and feel like I am making an impact. Student representation on the board is important to build a strong network of support."

After attending Chancellor Mark Fuller's inauguration last fall, Worthy decided to run for the position of Student Trustee. She completed the application, added two letters of recommendation, sat for an interview, made posters, and "campaigned" through her contacts on the Student Government Association (SGA) and the SBA.

"I was definitely shocked to win. UMassD has never elected a graduate student or law student as Student Trustee. It has always been a role an undergraduate student has filled. I knew it was going to be a challenge. And there were a few people who doubted it would happen," Worthy said. Her term began on July 1.

"It is definitely an honor to be the first. The Board of Trustees sets the UMass system's strategic direction, establishes policies, approves campus budgets, and other routine matters. As Student Trustee, I will represent UMass Law students, graduate students, and undergraduates and provide the board with a student perspective on matters that come before the board," she added.

"It felt right for me to run and I am so grateful and honored to have been elected to represent all students. I have already started attending SGA executive board meetings and plan to attend SBA and GSS meetings throughout the academic year to ensure I am truly representing all student voices and keeping all students informed."

Since Student Trustees cannot hold a position on the SGA, SBA, Graduate Student Senate (GSS), or Class Council concurrently with the Board of Trustee position, Worthy resigned from her liaison position and took on a new role as the Special Assistant to the President of the UMass Law Alumni Association so she could maintain her relationship with the Law Alumni Board.

In her new role with the ABA, Worthy is the liaison between the Law Student Division and the Section of Legal Education, keeping Law Student Division leadership informed of upcoming issues and concerns in legal education. "I will work with the Section of Legal Education and the Division Director to maintain and develop Division Education programs, plans, and activities. Other responsibilities include attending Section of Legal Education Council meetings and promoting the division's programs, activities, and national competitions through regular communications with the ABA, among other things," she explained.

To serve in this role, Worthy was recommended to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar by the Law Student Division Nominating Committee. Then, she was appointed by the Council of the Section of Legal Education. 

Always a teacher

Before attending UMass Law, Worthy taught at the Institute for Collaborative Education in Manhattan, Bard High School's Early College in Newark, New Jersey, and at Newark Vocational High School. "I coached debate and the Model United Nations, and I enjoyed taking students on trips to Georgia and Alabama to study civil rights history." 

Worthy said she still teaches occasionally and helps with Bard College's workshops, including Camp Curiosity where students take college classes.

She currently works in the UMass Law Admissions Office as a student ambassador and is a teaching assistant for Legal Skills I and II with Professor Rebecca Moor.

While Worthy is unsure of her plans after she graduates from law school, she would like to earn a PhD in U.S. history or African-American history and teach again. "All that I have learned during my time in law school will be helpful in my future career," she said.