UH Law School Awarded $120,000 Grant to Assist Students from Diverse Backgrounds

The UH Law School has just been awarded a two-year $120,000 grant that will specifically increase support for students from underserved and underrepresented communities in the school’s highly-regarded Ulu Lehua Scholars Program.

The grant, awarded by Access Group’s Center for Research & Policy Analysis, provides funding to support student success and to enable the William S. Richardson School of Law to collect and statistically analyze data on indicators to enhance bar passage for students in the program. It will also support a special Law School summer school class for Lehua Scholars.

“The grant is generally awarded to innovative programs that create pipelines into law school for minority students,” said Interim Director Troy J.H. Andrade ’11, who assumed leadership of the innovative program this fall when Professor Linda Krieger decided to concentrate on her cutting-edge research and teaching.

“But for us, it will be a little different because the funds will be used to support our Lehua Scholars while at the Law School to ensure their success as aspiring attorneys with a passion for social justice.”

The grant is specifically aimed at assisting students from diverse backgrounds with an emphasis on historically underrepresented minority students as well as those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, in accordance with Access Group’s funding priorities.

“The Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis is pleased to award the University of Hawai’i a $120,000 grant for the William S. Richardson School of Law Lehua Scholars Program. Access Group is committed to funding innovative programs that share the same goal—improving access to legal education,” said Christopher P. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of Access Group.

As bar passage rates have dipped nationally in recent years, rates have fallen most noticeably among students from disadvantaged communities. This grant hopes to develop methods to reverse that trend—not just in Hawai‘i, but also at law schools across the country.

“In partnership with Access Group, the Lehua Program will continue to serve as a national model for other law schools to help ensure that students from various backgrounds are able to stay in law school, be successful, and pass the bar,” said Andrade. “In general across the country, the bar passage rates have been going down, so part of the grant is to conduct a study at our school to figure out the indicators for success.

“With the data, we can home in on what it is that makes students more successful,” added Andrade.

Dean Avi Soifer said, “The Ulu Lehua Program is a national model and we are extremely proud of its many success stories. Troy Andrade is himself an inspiring example, and the Law School is extremely proud to have him return to the Law School to build on the work of Professor Krieger and earlier directors of the program.”

Soifer added, “We are extremely grateful to the Access Group for this grant, which was written largely by Law School Special Projects Director Minara Mordecai.”

The Ulu Lehua Scholars Program was founded in 1974—a year after the UH Law School began classes in 1973—to ensure that the Law School community reflected Hawai‘i’s diverse population and to provide the opportunity to attend the Law School for qualified students who had overcome adversity and showed promise for serving underserved communities.  The Lehua Program has already graduated more than 300 students. Each year 10-12 students enter Richardson as part of the program, and receive support and mentorship throughout their time at the Law School, with an emphasis on success during the 1L year.

The grant will enable Andrade to spend additional time tutoring and advising students, as well as hiring tutors to supply every student the help needed. Andrade is himself a 2011 graduate of the Ulu Lehua program who was managing editor of the University of Hawai’i Law Review and served as a law clerk for Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. He earned a PhD in American Studies and was a litigation attorney at McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP before coming to the Law School as a Visiting Professor and Interim Director this fall.

Andrade is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, where he studied political science and economics, and then Richardson Law School where he earned his JD.  Andrade also obtained a PhD from UH, where his studies focused on Native Hawaiian legal history and the American Civil Rights Movement.  During college Andrade interned with former Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Akaka in Washington D.C. and became interested in politics and law during that time. Both Akaka and Hawai‘i Rep. Ken Ito encouraged him to pursue a law degree at Richardson.

“All of the issues going on with Native Hawaiians helped change my path and got me interested in law school,” he says.

As structured now, the Lehua Program strongly supports students through their first year of law school, by reducing the number of courses by one during the year, and then assisting students in completing that course during their first summer. 1L Lehua Scholars enroll in a course taught by the Program director during their first semester that focuses on social justice lawyering and understanding the nuances of the American legal system. The new grant will help provide even more attention during the first year as well as during the second and third years to keep the cohort connected, says Andrade.