Feb. 12, 2018 — In the summer of 2016, Natalie Diala saw a glimpse into her future as part of the University of Houston Law Center Pre-Law Pipeline Program.
Now in the second semester of her 1L year, Diala can add making the Dean's List to her list of law school accomplishments.
"I had a different mindset going into law school," Diala said. "The pipeline program prepared me and connected me with a lot of mentors who went to the Law Center, and let me know what I was in for. Those tips have really helped so much."
The program, which completed its third year in August 2017, was established by Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes and Program Manager Kristen Guiseppi. The eight-week summer course is designed to increase diversity among law school applicants and to provide students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to consider law school seriously.
"I am immensely proud of all that Ms. Diala has achieved since graduating from the Pipeline Program," Guiseppi said. "Ambitious, driven and armed with a can-do attitude, Ms. Diala's abilities and possibilities are endless."
Diala participated in the second year of the program, and it helped steer her to the Law Center.
"I was still researching and figuring things out," she said. "I went into the program thinking that it would help me know for sure if law was something that I wanted to pursue. At the end of the program I knew I definitely wanted to be an attorney."
Diala graduated from the University of Miami where she majored in public relations. She determined her focus in communications could make for a natural transition to law school.
"I wanted something a bit more challenging," Diala said. "After talking to mentors and friends and doing some research, I saw a lot of the things I liked about PR and communications that I could accomplish through law."
An early highlight of Diala's Law Center career was a recent visit by Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
At a luncheon, Baynes read statements from students expressing how Sotomayor has inspired them, including Diala's remark that read: "Justice Sotomayor is a constant reminder to me, a first-generation American, that the American Dream is attainable. Her life is one of the greatest messages that regardless of upbringing, language, culture or family, hard work and integrity will continue to open doors in this country."
Diala, whose parents emigrated from Nigeria, said having her words recited to Sotomayor was a surreal experience.
"I couldn't really take it in at the moment," she said. "It was amazing to have that opportunity of a Supreme Court Justice on my campus. It was an amazing opportunity.