Can 1,946 St. Thomas Lawyers Change the World?

While the majority of our School of Law alumni continue to advance the common good in Minnesota and the surrounding states, we asked 17 of our 1,946 alumni what they do each day and what impact they hope to have on the communities they serve outside the Upper Midwest.

At the end of the day, do you feel good about what you've accomplished?

Not just in your office or courtroom, but in your community? Do you consider the impact you are making on the world around you?

As a law school, we talk a lot about impact. Dean Robert Vischer wrote on the pages of St. Thomas Lawyer in 2014, “It’s what draws us to the School of Law. The hundreds of people who have worked to build our community – faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and mentors – have been motivated by a mission that calls us to be part of a cause that is bigger than ourselves.”

We know we are able to make a bigger impact today than when our doors opened almost two decades ago with one standalone J.D. program and 120 first-year law students. We’ve grown and changed in the years since, increasing our clinical offerings to 12, opening our classrooms to compliance professionals who seek to change corporate culture and welcoming lawyers from the far corners of the Earth who want to understand American law to better serve their clients abroad. With every change in curriculum, our dedication to impacting lives and communities persists – from our state to the nation and the world.

And so, we turn our attention to you. What will be your legacy? While the majority of our alumni continue to advance the common good in Minnesota and the surrounding states, we asked 17 of our 1,946 alumni what they do each day and what impact they hope to have on the communities they serve outside the Upper Midwest. We invite you to add your story by tagging us in a tweet, Instagram photo or Facebook post.

North America


Empowering Leaders
Lauren Anthone Dedon ’14 J.D., policy analyst, National Governors Association

“By facilitating the sharing of best practices and lessons learned across our nation, I hope to empower governors to better serve the people they represent. [Looking forward, I will] continue to further criminal justice reform efforts across the states – through public service and academia – with an emphasis on improving our state prison systems and protecting public safety.”


Fewer Homicides
Michael Lawyer ’09 J.D., director of performance and resource optimization for field policy and management, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

“America’s cities are our engines of growth and opportunity. Federal dollars undergird key investments that keep our cities strong and open to all – from enforcing our fair housing laws, to mortgage insurance, to direct cash assistance to people and municipalities. HUD is critical to making those investments, and the government, effective. I am incredibly proud to serve and support them in that work.”


Strengthening Cities
Alicia M. Long ’10 J.D., senior assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia

“Because D.C. does not have statehood, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting most local and federal crime. I am serving in a senior position in the homicide section, where I solely prosecute homicides that occur in the District of Columbia. I am responsible for handling each prosecution from the inception of the case through its conclusion, whether that be via plea, trial or other resolution. The homicide rate in D.C. has been on the decline, and hopefully we can keep it that way.”



Protecting Brands
Elizabeth Brenckman ’08 J.D., principal, Fish & Richardson P.C.

“My practice focuses on trademark litigation and enforcement matters in federal courts and before the International Trade Commission and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. I hope to continue to help companies of all sizes protect their brands and reach swift, favorable resolutions in any affirmative or defensive disputes.”



Helping Women Lead
Laura Hammargren ’08 J.D., partner, Mayer Brown LLP

“My greatest hope, and greatest challenge, is to have a positive impact in achieving greater diversity at all levels of the profession and to help women starting out in their careers find paths that meet their definition of success and fulfillment.”



Justice for the Wrongfully Convicted
Sara Sommervold ’13 J.D., clinical fellow/intake attorney, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions

“I hope the work I do at the CWC helps to right some of the injustices suffered by the wrongfully convicted, educates the community about the causes and consequences of wrongful conviction, and promotes policy and practices that help guard against wrongfully convicting innocent men and women in the future.”


Community Advocacy
Ruth Dapper ’12 J.D., attorney, Littler Mendelson P.C.

“I strive to be a trusted adviser and confidante to my colleagues and those in my community. In addition to my work at Littler, I value non-legal advocacy work to improve the city I love. Last year I worked to advocate for additional green space in downtown San Diego, and I plan to continue similar advocacy.”

Servant Leadership

Bryce Young ’10 J.D., trial attorney, Duane Morris LLP

“I am a trial attorney focusing on advising and representing colleges. My primary goal is to continue to earn and keep the trust and respect of my clients as one of their advisers. I hope to continue bolstering my firm’s diversity initiatives through servant leadership and cross-marketing within offices. In my broader community, I look forward to being involved with issues impacting people with disabilities (both locally and nationally).”

South America


Safety for Americans Abroad
Jessica Slattery ’06 J.D., foreign service officer, U.S. Department of State

“As a U.S. diplomat, I am generally called to represent the interests and values of the United States overseas. In the American Citizen Services Unit in Haiti I am responsible for the protection and safety of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad. It is my hope to help shape and implement U.S. foreign policy that serves to both benefit U.S. citizens and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous world.”


Social Responsibility
Jose M. Garcia R. ’16 LL.M., legal coordinator, Alpina Productos Alimenticios S.A.

“Working in Alpina means working in the biggest dairy company in Colombia, which provides work for more than 6,000 employees just in Colombia, especially in Sopó, a small town located near Bogotá, which has developed itself thanks to Alpina. Alpina is also a company with full social responsibility commitment, which means that all legal assistance is finally reflected in the community.”


Constructive Public Policy
Rennatto Tible ’15 LL.M., in-house legal counsel, The Pantaleon Group Inc.

“I’m part of the team of the holding company of a 160-year-old privately family-held investment group. The firm invests mainly in its two divisions: sugar mills and real estate. I hope to use my skills to help businesses achieve their goals complying with the law and in an ethical manner, which will have an impact in wealth generation for all stakeholders (shareholders, employees – and their families – providers, clients, competitors, other counterparties, surrounding communities of our operations, local government) and corporate culture. I hope to contribute to constructive public policy discussions in my country, Guatemala, and contribute in different ways to the strengthening of the rule of law.”

Advising Entrepreneurs
Maria Fernanda Valenzuela ’17 LL.M., associate, Valenzuela Herrera & Asociados Law Firm

“I advise businesses and employers in labor and employment matters. I want to offer advice to entrepreneurs and young people, who usually know less about labor and employment laws and who are more in need of legal advice. These will be the companies of the future, and the labor and employment laws will have to evolve to regulate the new work and technology issues that affect business.”



Advocating for Asylum Policies
Christina Espey-Sundt ’17 J.D., Fulbright Scholar, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

“I am pursuing an LL.M. in International Migration and Refugee Law on a Fulbright grant. I am engaged in coursework and participate in the Migration Law Clinic where we submit expert opinions to the European Court of Justice in response to questions posed by EU member states. I hope to learn about strengths and weaknesses of different asylum policies and procedures in order to sharpen my own advocacy and find my place in the larger migration law field.”


Fairness in Military Justice
Capt. Gavin Johnson ’13 J.D., Area Defense Counsel, U.S. Air Force

“I provide legal defense services to approximately 20,000 airmen stationed in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. When an airman is accused of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I defend them through administrative and criminal processes, including court-martial. I hope to ensure the military justice system remains fair and valid, which allows commanders to maintain the good order and discipline necessary for a strong military and our national defense.”


Diversity in the Profession
Bree Peterson ’09 J.D., associate White & Case LLP

“London is an incredibly diverse place, welcoming all types of people from all corners of the world (like me!), and this is one of the primary reasons I love this city. I would like to continue to be an advocate for diversity in the legal profession, and particularly the promotion of women lawyers to leadership positions in law firms, corporate legal departments and other organizations. Our profession can do better to reflect our world and our clients in this regard.”


Improve Lives
Paula Duro Ridruejo ’16 LL.M., international protection lawyer, Spanish Red Cross, and attorney, Bufete Duro Ridruejo

“I help people to get a better life. At the Spanish Red Cross, I am in contact with people who have nothing and their only concern is to live in peace. I make sure they are not returned to their home country where they are prosecuted on political, social, religious, gender or sex orientation grounds. Working as a lawyer on my own, I help people solve their problems. I try to make strategic litigation to influence judges’ decisions creating precedents relating to sensitive issues like gender discrimination.”



Human Rights for North Koreans
Amanda Mortwedt Oh ’12 J.D., project officer, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; and judge advocate, U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps

“I am in charge of satellite imagery analysis and reporting on North Korea’s prison camp system. I hope to improve the human rights situation by increasing public awareness of crimes committed by the Kim regime, documenting atrocities, pressuring the regime through human rights mechanisms and advocacy, and calling for the immediate closure of North Korea’s gulags.”

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