L to R: UCLA Law student leaders Christian Rivas ’18, Grace Bowden ’18, Eric Sezgen ’19, Stephanie Oehler ’19, Sunjana Supekar ’19, Alexandra Gay ’19 and Brianne Holland-Stergar ’18.
The Environmental Law Society at UCLA School of Law was honored as 2018’s Student Organization of the Year at the school’s fourth annual Student Leadership Breakfast on April 22.
In presenting the award to ELS on Earth Day, Student Bar Association president Brianne Holland-Stergar ’18 recognized the group’s uncommon emphasis on social justice, diversity, engagement and partnership with other organizations at UCLA Law.
During the 2017-18 school year, ELS organized nearly two dozen events, including nature walks, beach clean-ups and career networking opportunities. A number of these initiatives were presented in tandem with groups such as the Food Law Society, the Business Law Association, the Real Estate Law Association, the Womyn of Color Collective and the Native American Law Students Association.
Of special note, ELS organized the travel and activities of more than 20 students who attended the California Lawyers Association’s Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite in October 2017. The event, widely acknowledged as the premier environmental law conference in the nation, was co-chaired by Cara Horowitz ’01, co-executive director of UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. There, students substantively participated in a diversity, equity and inclusion workshop that addressed motivations, strategies and opportunities for creating a pipeline of diverse leaders in environmental law.
Holland-Stergar also commended ELS for dedicating one-third of its budget to creating events that support underrepresented students and promote environmental justice. The group teamed with the Emmett Institute to host a month-long environmental justice lecture series, where distinguished lawyers and advocates shared stories and insights during intimate lunchtime gatherings. ELS also published weekly newsletters that gave students a broad digest of events and career opportunities.
Accepting the award on behalf of ELS and its president, Beth Kent ’18, who could not attend, were officers Alexandra Gay ’19, Stephanie Oehler ’19, Eric Sezgen ’19 and Sunjana Supekar ’19.
The celebration also featured the presentation of the 2018 UCLA Law Enhancement Award to three graduating students whose volunteer efforts made valuable contributions to the law school.
Caleb Jackson ’18 served as co-chair of the Black Law Students Association; re-established BLSA’s moot court team, which enjoyed success in the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition; was co-editor-in-chief of the National Black Law Journal, arranging its 2018 symposium; and taught at Dorsey High School in South L.A. as part of UCLA Law’s Street Law clinic. Ben Ryzak ’18 served as president of his class and vice president of the SBA; organized the popular trivia night for students, faculty and staff; and guided efforts to found a scholarship in memory of professor Skye Donald and resurrect the gala hosted by the Office of Public Interest Programs. And Jennifer Ta ’18 was chief executive editor of the UCLA Law Review; co-chair of the Disability Law Society, engaging with undergraduate students on how lawyers can make a difference; and active in groups including Law Women of UCLA and El Centro Legal Clinics.
In addition, outgoing SBA executive board members Grace Bowden ’18, Christian Rivas ’18 and Holland-Stergar were recognized at the ceremony for their exceptional service to the law school.
UCLA Law alumna Cat Zhang ’17, an M&A, private equity and global finance associate at Sidley Austin’s Century City office, delivered the keynote address. In early 2017, Zhang co-led a massive UCLA Law student response to immigration crackdowns that followed the Trump Administration’s first travel ban.