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ASU Law launches reimagined alumni office

A blonde woman in a black dress smiles for the camera.

Assistant Dean for Alumni Lauren Burkhart, an alum of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law herself, will lead the school's dedicated alumni office. Photo by Tabbs Mosier/ASU

September 21, 2023

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is launching a dedicated alumni office to reshape how it connects and engages with all of its graduates.

The freestanding office will be the first of its kind for ASU Law, a deliberate investment in the ASU Law alumni community by Willard H. Pedrick Dean and Regents Professor of Law Stacy Leeds, who took over as dean in February. 

“Many alumni are enthusiastic about the increased national stature and growth of this law school, but they are also eager to reconnect with the law school and with each other,” Leeds said. “This includes a desire to establish new ties with fellow alumni in a stronger interconnected network of ASU Law graduates. As we prioritize wellness, community building and humanity within the law for our current students, we also plan to prioritize and invest in our relationships with alumni locally and globally.” 

A kickoff event will be held at the Beus Center for Law and Society, located on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, on Feb. 9 to officially launch the office and invite the alumni community to be involved in its development. 

The Honorable Redfield T. Baum, retired U.S. bankruptcy judge for the District of Arizona, graduated with his Juris Doctor from ASU Law in 1973 as part of its fourth graduating class and has seen it grow and evolve since its start. While a student, he met with a study group regularly that stays in touch and meets every December, but that isn’t the case for every alum.

“I’m excited to see this new office and I hope it will cause more people to reconnect with the law school,” he said. “People who graduated in my time and for a decade afterward, you graduated and you didn’t have much to do with the law school. We lost touch with some of that generation. What the law school has become today is nothing short of amazing.”

Diandra Benally, general counsel for Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, graduated with her JD in 2005. Originally from New Mexico, she came to ASU Law specifically for its highly regarded Indian Legal Program (ILP). Like Judge Baum, she is still in close contact with many of her ILP cohort, who are now trusted colleagues. The law school aims to extend that kind of community to more alumni groups.

“This dedicated alumni office is an opportunity for alums to have a solid place to go in the law school and to be more connected and engaged,” she said. “I’m excited to participate and encourage colleagues and classmates to be more involved and give back to the law school that provided so much for me and my career.”

ASU Law has over 10,000 graduates, but with over 1,700 current students between its JD and master's degree programs, the alumni base is growing exponentially. Building and supporting an inclusive, comprehensive network has never been more important. 

Sher Downing, now the CEO and ed tech strategist of Downing EdTech Consulting, came to ASU Law to earn her Master of Legal Studies with an emphasis in intellectual property in 2010.

“By staying connected with your fellow alumni and those who came before you, you tap into a valuable network within the legal community and gain access to essential resources,” she said. “Sustaining connections with your alma mater, faculty and staff also opens doors for you to contribute and stay actively involved as your legal community grows, leaving a lasting positive impact on society.”

The new office will be headed up by Assistant Dean for Alumni Lauren Burkhart, an ASU Law alum herself. For over a decade, Burkhart has worked at the law school in different capacities, including overseeing all centers and programs, running the school’s Washington, D.C., location, and most recently leading the JD admissions team. She worked with alumni every step of the way.  

“I’m very passionate about what the law school does, but I recognize there is so much more we can do with and for our alumni,” she said. 

Here, Burkhart discusses why now is the right time to launch an alumni office, what sets it apart and what alumni can expect.

Question: Why is a dedicated alumni office being launched now? 

A: Building intentional and deliberate communities is a key part of who we are and how we will measure our success. As we grow within and across different degree programs, it is a very exciting challenge to connect and serve the entire alumni community as a whole. 

We know there is an appetite from alumni to know more about what’s going on with each other and at the law school and a desire to be more involved and give back. This office will make all of that more accessible while making sure we celebrate and recognize their accomplishments and successes.

Q: What is going to be distinct or special about this alumni office?

A: There is a unique chance to be flexible and responsive since we are building something new that crosses all departments at the law school. We can adapt to what alumni actually want and provide the resources, opportunities and connections that truly benefit them — personally and professionally.

I am eager for more alumni to get involved and to facilitate ways for them to do that, but this isn’t about asking for anything. This office is not tied to fundraising efforts, which I think is a critical departure from how we have approached these efforts in the past.

Q: What are you most excited about?

A: I’m thrilled there is support from Dean Leeds and the law school to approach alumni efforts in a deliberate way that is more integrated in every part of the law school. I have seen firsthand how alumni can have a huge impact on student success, recruitment, wellness, teaching and scholarship, and beyond. I am excited to use the breadth of my experience here to connect the dots and think creatively about broad alumni benefits and opportunities..

On a personal level, I am eager to get to know more of our alumni one-on-one and start to engage their energy and expertise in new ways. Our launch event in February will be one opportunity to do that.

Alums interested in connecting or sharing ideas, please contact Lauren Burkhart

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