Graduates celebrate success at December Commencement

January 4, 2024 · By Nicole Jennings
Graduates at December Commencement
Seattle U Law graduates listen to an address by Dean Anthony E. Varona at December Commencement. Photo by Matt Hagen

Dozens of accomplished Seattle University School of Law graduates walked across the stage of Pigott Auditorium last month to accept their hard-earned degrees during the December Commencement Ceremony.

Twenty-four candidates are expected to receive a Juris Doctor, 24 are expected to receive a Master of Legal Studies degree, and six are expected to receive a Master of Laws degree. Degrees for December graduates are considered final once grades are posted in January.

Pigott Auditorium was standing room only, with about 400 family members and friends turning out to support their graduating loved ones, and another 40 tuning into the livestream.

“Your professors and I are so very proud of you and what you have accomplished during your time here at Seattle University School of Law,” Seattle U Law Dean Anthony E. Varona told the graduates in his address. “Today is a day to celebrate, to be thankful, and to look toward the future.”

J.D. candidate Maria Victoria Molina, who is anticipated to graduate a semester early, gave the student address to her classmates. After immigrating from Nicaragua to the U.S. with her mother at age 11, she earned a B.A. in sociology and legal studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Molina balanced law school with raising her daughter, born during her 1L year.

During her time at Seattle U Law, Molina served as content development editor for the Seattle Journal for Social Justice, the Latinx Law Student Association’s liaison to the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington and the Hispanic National Bar Association, and a research assistant to Professor Margaret Chon.

“December graduates are built differently, because for many of us, our journey to law school was not linear,” Molina said. She noted that her mother showed her that “setbacks are not defeats, but steppingstones to success.”

Molina urged her peers to read the personal statements they wrote when applying to law school.

“That person is the reason why you came to law school. That is the person we need to stay true to throughout our careers,” she said. “Honor yourselves and the privilege this profession brings by staying true to the hopeful and enthusiastic person who wrote your personal statement for law school.”

After her speech, Molina presented Professor Deirdre Bowen, who served as marshal-at-arms, with the award for the Outstanding Faculty Honoree.

Vonda Sargent ’94, a civil rights attorney with her own law firm, delivered the alumni keynote. In her address, she advised the anticipated graduates to always take the moral path throughout their careers, even if that decision proves risky, challenging, or unpopular.

“Along the way, you are going to be tested, but you must stand strong and know you will be on the side of right,” she said. “You are walking out as lawyers. With the stroke of a pen, you have the power to change someone's life. You must stand up, use your profession, and this legal degree, for good.”

A video of the ceremony and an album of photos are posted online.

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