Two black women and one white woman, smiling, holding documents

Working to diversify the legal profession: Camille Davidson, center, dean of the SIU School of Law, holds an agreement will enable students from Tougaloo College, a historically Black liberal arts college, to enroll in a dual degree program where they have an opportunity to complete both their bachelor’s degree and law degree in six years. With Davidson are, left, Alicia Jones, law school associate dean, and Sheila Simon, law school associate professor. Below: Tougaloo College President Carmen J. Walters, lower box, talks with SIU School of Law officials during an Oct. 17 virtual signing ceremony. (Photos by Russell Bailey)

October 18, 2022

SIU School of Law, Tougaloo College partner to increase diversity among attorneys

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Tougaloo College on Oct. 17 signed an agreement to help students from the private, historically Black liberal arts college enroll and earn a degree from the SIU School of Law, with the aim of diversifying the legal profession.

The law school and Tougaloo College, a 900-student institution in Tougaloo, Mississippi, entered into a 3+3 dual degree program agreement for qualified college students. Successful students will have the opportunity to complete both their bachelor’s degree and law degree in six years.

This is SIU School of Law’s third agreement with a historically Black college or university, or a minority-serving institution to create pathways to advanced degree completion and diversify the pipeline to the legal community. It is similar to a 3+3 program for SIU students.

According to the American Bar Association, 14% of all lawyers in 2020 were Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or of mixed race. Only 5% of attorneys were Black, compared to 13.4% of the population.

The latest agreement continues the law school’s efforts to become more diverse, School of Law Dean Camille Davidson said. It fits well with the university’s strategic plan, Imagine 2030, which includes a pillar to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

“SIU Carbondale has a long history of inclusivity, and I am excited that this agreement with Tougaloo furthers that mission,” Davidson said. “It is important for society to continue working toward real access to justice and training attorneys from various backgrounds. We trust a justice system when we see ourselves as advocates and decision-makers. This agreement is another step in ensuring that students, including those from underrepresented populations, have the opportunity to reach their goals in the legal profession.”

As part of the agreement, Tougaloo students complete the application to enroll in the dual degree program no later than the end of their freshman year and maintain a minimum 3.4 GPA. Program candidates must complete three-fourths of the course work required for a bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College and all of their major and thesis requirements by the end of their junior year. Students may be allowed to count up to 30 credit hours from SIU toward their bachelor’s degree.

Photo-2-SIU-Tougaloo_2439-sm.jpg“Since its founding 153 years ago, Tougaloo College has been committed to providing equal access to education for all. Historically underrepresented students need to know that obtaining a degree from a top-tier law school like SIU Carbondale is accessible, attainable and achievable,” said Tougaloo College President Carmen J. Walters. “HBCUs are powerhouses for African American talent. This partnership will connect our best and brightest scholars to SIU Carbondale to study in a safe, vibrant and inclusive environment where they can thrive and survive. In addition, this partnership helps us move ever closer toward addressing disparities in representation across race, gender and ethnicity outlined in our 2021-2026 strategic plan, ‘Preserving the Past, Advancing Tomorrow.’”

Tougaloo students will also have access to SIU Law’s Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute, which helps high achieving juniors and seniors from colleges around the country gained insight on legal careers and preparing for law school.

Students receive assistance to prepare for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) while honing skills necessary for law school, such as understanding how to read and analyze cases. In addition, students take field trips and interact with lawyers, law students and law school faculty.

About Tougaloo College

Tougaloo College is globally recognized for its academic excellence and social commitment. Since its founding in 1869, the College has maintained its rich history and deep roots within the social justice framework providing significant contributions of advocates, activists, and scholars to the world. Its legacy of distinction in higher education is centered around the high-quality liberal arts studies curriculum and being among the top 25 U.S institutions whose graduates go on to graduate or professional school. Its greatest mission is to prepare students to be lifelong learners who are committed to leadership and service in a global society. 

About SIU Carbondale 

A nationally ranked public research university, SIU Carbondale offers a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, innovation in research and creativity, and outstanding teaching focused on nurturing student success. Distinct among its peer institutions, SIU grants research opportunities to undergraduate students that other universities may reserve for graduate students.  A regional economic catalyst with world-class facilities nestled among forests, a lake and university-owned farms, SIU strives to achieve its mission while advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and promoting sustainability.