Live Law in Color

Troy Riddle, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Welcomes John Marshall’s Most Diverse Entering Class

The John Marshall Law School already is a pioneer when it comes to diversity, but Troy Riddle thinks the school can become a standard bearer. “John Marshall is better than most law schools when it comes to diversity,” says Riddle, the law school’s Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, but he wants to push it to be even better. “I want to create a model for other law schools with respect to diversity and inclusion.”

“The fact that this position was even created says a lot about the institution,” he adds.

It’s not surprising, considering John Marshall’s history. The law school graduated its first female student, Jessie Cook, in 1903; its first African-American student, James Randle, in 1904; and its first Hispanic student, William E. Rodriguez, in 1912.

This year’s entering class is John Marshall’s most diverse ever, with nearly half of the students identifying as a minority. More than 60% of the full-time entering students are women. The class of 2019 will create an even more diversified student body which, as of last year, was composed of more than 34% minority students, making the law school one of the most diversified in the nation, according to preLaw Magazine.

John Marshall achieved another recognition on the diversity front this year, as it was named to the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.

The Most Diverse Class Ever

Even though John Marshall has such a diverse student body, Riddle says the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The law school must be prepared to meet their needs. “Many of our diverse students are first generation law students and don’t have the guidance and role models that other students get naturally when their parents, family members, or peers are legal professionals,” Riddle says.

“They don’t know how to work through the maze of higher education, especially law school,” he adds. “They lack a built-in support system.”

Riddle is making plans to improve the law school experience of John Marshall’s diverse student body. “I want to improve the cultural sensitivity of our faculty, staff, and students, so that there is a cognizable and better appreciation of our differences. Doing this creates better lawyers and better people.”

The fact that this position was even created says a lot about the institution.

“Cultural sensitivity is very important to the practice of law,” Riddle says. “If you can’t hear people, you can’t represent them.”

Dialogue and Action

Along with Professor Arthur Acevedo, the newly appointed Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Faculty, Riddle is working on plans that pull from all levels of the law school, including training, opportunities for dialogue, and a school-wide commitment to action.

Riddle plans to survey the entire institution to assess its actual and perceived environment. Once tallied, Riddle plans to use the survey to create a team from all levels of the institution to ensure that the law school does not have any policies or practices in place that create obstacles to an inclusive workplace. He also plans to work with the admission team to reach out and develop relationships with undergraduate institutions to ensure that the school remains diverse. He also wants to continue to be a resource for faculty, staff, and students.

Riddle knows plans are not enough. He intends to create measurable and actionable goals with timelines and revisit them regularly. He also seeks to engage alumni in his mission. “We want our students to see what they are doing. The students need to know what is possible.”

Ultimately Riddle wants the law school’s faculty and staff to resemble the student body, so that when students graduate from John Marshall, “they leave here able to handle work and life in a global and diverse society.”