Today UMass Dartmouth celebrated the Class of 2016 at its School of Law Commencement ceremony at the University’s Main Auditorium. More than 50 students earned their Juris Doctor degrees at today’s morning ceremony. The University is celebrating its first graduating class since its ascension to Doctoral Research University earlier this year. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants offered the Commencement Address and received an honorary degree.
“We are reimagining what it means to be a court system and that means we need to reimagine what it means to practice law,” Chief Justice Gants said. “No one is better positioned than you to understand what that means. Your law school education has been designed to prepare you for that change. You are not only law school graduates. You are pioneers and you are blazing the path for the entire profession of law.”
Chief Justice Gants has been a supporter of the Commonwealth’s only public law school and its mission to prepare justice-centered lawyers. He has also been a supporter of UMass Law’s Justice Bridge law practice incubator, which provides low-cost civil legal services to clients of modest means in Greater Boston and on the SouthCoast.
“There is no doubt that you will face new challenges - the bar exam, a tough job market, and balancing family and work obligations,” UMass Dartmouth Interim Chancellor Randy Helm said. “Call me an optimist, but I’m not worried about you. You have already demonstrated that you are too intellectually tough, resilient and dedicated to justice to be held back.”
"I am overwhelmed by the power in this room," UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek said. "This room is filled with the power that comes from knowing that each of you in this room is about to receive a degree that will lead to a license to practice law, to promote fairness and equality through justice, and to stand at the bench shoulder to shoulder, equal by status, to every member of our profession."
UMass President Marty Meehan was present for today's ceremony and offered congratulatory remarks to the Class of 2016. President Meehan is the first undergraduate alumnus to lead the five-campus University of Massachusetts system.
“I know that you will use your skills and courage to stand up for the poor, to fight for people’s rights, to fight for children, to fight for the environment, to fight for healthcare and for decent housing, and in an ultimate sense, to fight for justice,” President Meehan said. “We are all very proud of what you have accomplished, and we know that you will make us even prouder in the months, years, and decades ahead as you take on the causes that need to be addressed, as you protect people’s rights, and bring justice and hope to people across the Commonwealth, across this country, and across the world.”
Purple Heart recipient and Boston Firefighter and EMT Ryan Arsenault, of Boston, Massachusetts offered the student address. Ryan started his law school career in October 2010, as a full-time student in the first inaugural class of UMass Law. His law school career was interrupted when he was recalled to active duty for the Marine Corp in 2011 and deployed to Afghanistan. Ryan earned a Purple Heart for combat-related wounds received in 2011 in Afghanistan. He also received the Commissioner's Citation as a first responder at the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. At UMass Law, Ryan served as the President of the Student Veterans Organization and class representative to the Student Bar Association.
“I can see in this graduating class how great it will become in the future,” Ryan said. “I look out amongst my classmates and admire how greatly diverse we all are. But I think it’s safe to say that one of the greatest things we all have in common is how this school has provided us one tremendous opportunity. I can honestly stand here today and say that I would not have been provided the chance to receive a legal education if it was not for this school.”
The UMass Dartmouth Class of 2016 is made up of 2,086 students, representing 214 Massachusetts communities, 22 states, and 26 countries. The top five communities of UMass Dartmouth's graduating class are New Bedford, Fall River, Dartmouth, Boston, and Taunton. University officials expect to award 32 PhDs and 11 DNPs (Doctor of Nursing Practice). The PhDs include a record number in educational leadership and policy studies, as well as degrees in nursing, biomedical engineering and technology, electrical engineering, and marine sciences and technology.
UMass Law, located in Dartmouth, is the only public law school in Massachusetts and was established in 2010. It is conveniently located 30 miles from Providence, RI, and 60 miles from Boston, MA. UMass Law is committed to ensuring access to an affordable legal education for students who hope to pursue justice and serve others through the practice of law. UMass Law is provisionally approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654,312-988-6738.
UMass Dartmouth was elevated to Doctoral University – Higher Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education following the release of its final 2015 classification in February. The only Bay State research university located south of Boston distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional economic, social, and cultural development. UMass Dartmouth's mandate to serve its community is realized through countless partnerships, programs, and other outreach efforts to engage the community, and apply its knowledge to help address local issues and empower others to facilitate change for all.