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September Spotlight: Hispanic American Heritage Month

Since 1988, the U.S. Government has set aside the period from September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic American Heritage Month to honor the many contributions Hispanic and Latinx Americans have made and continue to make to the United States of America.

Despite unprecedented population growth in the United States, the Hispanic and Latinx community continues to be underrepresented in the legal profession. Yet, this community continues to stand as leaders and have an impact on society's forward movement. From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Ninth Circuit Judges Carlos Bea and Consuelo Callahan to Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales and Xavier Beccerra to Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Robert Menendez, trailblazing Hispanic and Latinx attorneys have made their marks for the betterment of all.

Melody Rodriguez (JD '12) is an excellent example of a rising Latina leader. Melody was SBA President 2011-2012 and now serves as a member of Pepperdine Caruso Law's Dean's Council. She currently works for Arizona Public Service, where she works to champion nuclear energy as an integral, long-term solution to the nation's carbon-free energy goals.

Melody says, "I am proud to be the featured alum during Hispanic Heritage month. My family has roots in Mexico and Spain, and I am the daughter of a second-generation American and a naturalized citizen. I am the first person in my family to earn a graduate degree, and that makes me all the more grateful for the sacrifices and contributions made to create this opportunity for Hispanic women like me, the culture that raised us and the community that lifts us up. Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to focus on celebrating the culture, supporting the community and sharing narratives that aren't normally told.

Working in corporate America, I am so grateful for the training I received at Pepperdine to adhere to the highest professional standards and moral principles, and for the calling instilled in me to live a life of purpose, service and leadership. In my role, I work with the company's external stakeholders, and that Pepperdine calling has translated into a passion for corporate responsibility — ensuring that the organization has a positive impact on society, the environment and those external stakeholders with whom I engage. I am authentically connected to my work because of my passion to apply ethics and instill integrity in the decisions I influence, the programs I oversee, the relationships I maintain and the work I produce — and I have the responsibility to challenge my peers to do the same."

Our current students do wonderful work through the Pepperdine Caruso Law chapter of the National Latinx Law Students Association (NLLSA). NLLSA's Executive Board is made up of six proud Latinas who are committed to uplifting and supporting the community not only during this celebratory month, but during throughout law school and into their legal careers. Our NLLSA members come from all over the United States and represent different Latin countries and cultures. As law students, they emphasize the significance of supporting one another, not only because the number of Latinx law students in America is a small percentage, but also because the number of Latinx who actually become lawyers only decreases from there. According to an American Bar Association Survey, only 5% of lawyers were Hispanic in 2020. Pepperdine Caruso's NLLSA chapter's mission is to create a safe space for our Latinx students and provide them with opportunities to network and connect with other law students and alumni.

NLLSA is not just for Latinx students, everyone is welcome. Part of being Hispanic is the joy of cultures, histories, and contributions with the community. Therefore, during this Hispanic Heritage Month the group is teaming up with multiple organizations on campus for events. On September 18th, Hispanic Heritage Month celebration kicks off with the Multicultural Law Coalition (MLC) and the Spanish Conversational Club for Trivia Night.! On September 22nd, they will partner with Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL) for an event with the Senior Counsel of Latino Justice, an organization dedicated to providing legal services to the Latinx community. Then on October 8th, there will be a screening and discussion of the documentary "Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado" with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) as part of their book club called "The Underground Beat Series." The NLLSA's Executive Board welcomes all to join—more information and links to RSVP can be found here.

The NLLSA Executive Board says, "we wish everyone a Happy Hispanic Heritage Month, and look forward to seeing you all virtually at our events! ¡Muchas Gracias!"

Pepperdine Caruso Law celebrates our Hispanic and Latinx community this month and every month.