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Advocating for Social Justice and Committed to Service

Be Orange

With a passion for constitutional law, Aubre Dean L’20 prepares for a future as a civil rights attorney.

During her first year at the Syracuse University College of Law, Aubre Dean was selected for a prestigious internship program that offered the chance to work for a federal district court judge. Though unsure how she would pay for a summer living in New York City, she accepted the offer. An alumni-funded grant through the Syracuse Public Interest Network in the College of Law provided the solution, making it possible for Dean to have an experience she describes as life-changing and career-shaping. Dean relished the energy in Manhattan and plans to return to work in a law firm after graduation. She also gained invaluable legal experience and met one of her role models, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Seeking Service Opportunities and Helping Others

The alumni support that made her internship possible is representative of the culture that drew Dean to Syracuse University. “At Syracuse Law, there’s an emphasis not only on learning but also on giving back to the community and to those who need assistance,” she says. This commitment to service has been personally meaningful for Dean, who credits the scholarships she’s received for making her graduate education attainable. One of the main reasons she chose to attend Syracuse’s College of Law is because it offers students many opportunities to engage with the community. “Whether through the clinical programs, the outreach events, or the pro bono work, Syracuse Law really fit with my own belief system,” she says.

Dean was raised in a close-knit family in Texas, and the supportive community at Syracuse University made her feel welcome and at home as a first-generation college student. Eager to give back to the community that has been so instrumental to her own well-being and success, Dean values opportunities to mentor first-year law students, helping them find resources and resolve the challenges of law school. She has also contributed to a wide range of student organizations and causes, including as class president, in a leadership role with the Women’s Law Students Association and as a member of OutLaw, an LGBTQ law and policy student organization.

Engagement with the community, both on and off campus, has also provided Dean opportunities to put her education into practice. She volunteered at a local veterans legal clinic, lending her expertise to members of the military community as they navigate complex paperwork and procedures.

Aubre Dean studies in library

Practicing Her Profession and Gaining Courtroom Experience

One of the most rewarding experiences of Dean’s academic journey has been competing in moot courts with the College of Law’s Travis H.D. Lewin Advocacy Honor Society. In moot courts, students develop arguments based on research and legal precedent, then present their cases while facing challenges and questions from scholars and legal professionals. In these competitions, Dean has tackled such complex issues as undocumented immigrants and First Amendment rights, and protections for individuals identified as LGBTQ in jury selection. Last fall, Dean and her classmates Shannon Bausinger and Joseph Tantillo, coached by Professor Emily Brown L’09 and David Katz L’17, won in regional competitions, and in February they joined the top 28 teams from around the country for the national competition in New York City.

Participating in these simulated courts has helped Dean clarify her long-term goals. “Gaining a greater understanding of the Constitution and the protections it affords each individual has been the highlight of my academic experience at Syracuse,” Dean says. She aspires to put this passion for constitutional law into practice after graduation.  

Embracing Social Responsibility to Create Social Justice

Dean traces her commitment to helping others and working for social justice to her upbringing. Between elementary school and high school, her community became ethnically, racially and economically diverse. Amid this new social landscape, Dean became aware that the law is not always equally or fairly enforced. “My parents raised us to be open-minded, respectful and welcoming of everyone, regardless of differences in background, religion or culture,” she says. “I think if you view people this way, you’re going to want to help wherever it’s needed. I feel I have a responsibility to help others, and now the education to do so.”

For Dean, being Orange means being generous and creating a welcoming community: “I am thankful for the organizations that have allowed me to give back to the community, for peers who have supported my legal journey and for professors who have challenged me and taken me under their wing. I’m grateful to attend a school where the alumni give back so generously,” she says. Now that she has graduated, Dean looks forward to extending the Orange spirit throughout her career and to being involved with the Syracuse family as an alumna.  

Sarah H. Griffin

This story was first published on May 12, 2020 and last updated on .


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