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September 2023 Spotlight: Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month provides an additional opportunity for our community to celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of the American Latino Community. Elia Vazquez, a Pepperdine Caruso Law third-year student and president of the National Latina/o Law Student Association (NLLSA) and vice-chair of the Mexican-American Bar Association (MABA), carries a sense of pride and gratitude, commenting, “As a Hispanic American I belong to a culturally diverse community of hardworking, resilient, and inspiring individuals.”  Elia acknowledges the rich diversity that exists among various Latin American groups and appreciates the space to be her authentic self, saying, “There is a sense of belonging and support [from my community] that has been fundamental in my academic and professional journey, especially since starting law school.” 

When she first decided to attend Caruso Law, Elia says that she “had some reservations given my socio-economic and cultural background. However, as a 3L, I can confidently state that being a law student at Pepperdine has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only has Pepperdine helped me achieve my academic and professional aspirations, but it also gave me the opportunity to create meaningful connections with some extraordinary folks in the Latinx community.” 

Elia’s passion for law and the Latinx community inspired her to participate and currently lead NLLSA. Elia’s leadership in NLLSA is motivated by the staggering statistic that while the Hispanic community makes up approximately 20% of the US population, only 5% of US attorneys are Hispanic. “I really wanted to be President of NLLSA because of my deep commitment to providing support and encouragement to latinx students navigating the legal profession. Statistics show that despite many advances, there are still many barriers for the Hispanic community, whether that be a language barrier, discrimination, lack of representation, institutionalized discouragement, lack of financial resources, family responsibilities etc., these barriers exist and make getting into law school and navigating the legal profession challenging.”

She believes more can be done to minimize obstacles that make the law profession less accessible to people of color, and sees organizations such as MABA, NLLSA and the Hispanic Bar Association as integral to that by providing a network of support and a sense of belonging for Hispanic Americans in the legal profession. 

Although Elia is approaching a new chapter as her formal legal education comes to a close in 2024, she is grateful for the hard work and progress she and her colleagues have made to help Pepperdine’s mission for an inclusive community advance. She hopes that she will leave a legacy of “Latinx law students feel[ing] welcomed, supported, and uplifted during their time at Pepperdine.” As she passes the baton, she is optimistic that Pepperdine’s Latinx community will grow and that more students will feel the sense of belonging she has experienced.

Please join NLLSA in partnership with the Office of Diversity and Belonging on Monday, October 2 at 12:30 PM in Classroom B. Elia will moderate an impactful panel discussion titled, “You Don’t Look Like A Lawyer: The Latinx Experience.”