July 22, 2020 - As president of the First-Generation Students at the University of Houston Law Center, Khady-Emilia Doumbia wants to emphasize that not all students start their legal education with the same set of circumstances and opportunities, and that such organizations address specific needs of minority students.
"Groups like this raise awareness and tell leaders and people in high places that the legal world’s criteria need to be flexible to create a more inclusive environment and accommodate these students who deserve the same resources, attention, and opportunities," Doumbia said. "They also create a welcoming environment for students with shared experiences and backgrounds to talk about their struggles, find solutions, and overcome the glass ceiling effect.
“First-generation groups are important in general because they give a leg up to those who start the race with less equipment than other runners.”
Among her priorities in the Fall 2020 semester are addressing current and future issues the organization and students may face and creating action plans to address the needs of first-generation students at the Law Center.
"We are aware of how challenging this year will be, so under my general direction and supervision, the First-Gen executive board and I are working on ways to be more virtually active so that we remain connected to our members,” she said. “We are also working on building a mentorship program specific to our members who we hope will soon realize that mentorship is fundamental.”
Doumbia graduated from the University of Alberta with a focus in Political Science. With an interest in the energy industry, she was drawn to the Law Center and particularly to the International Energy Lawyers Program, a dual-degree program that is a part of the school's partnership with the University of Calgary Faculty of Law.
"Texas is the perfect place to explore the energy industry, and I was looking for a program that would add to my international experience and broaden my scope on how the market works in different countries. This program was the perfect bait,” Doumbia said.
“I wanted to be involved in business and international transactions, and being a political science student made me realize that I could do more with a law degree. Not only are there better job prospects, but you can also have a direct impact regardless of the area of law in which you practice."
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant alteration to how people around the world work, Doumbia has relished her experience working for Judge Latosha Lewis Payne of the 55th Civil Judicial District in Harris County. Throughout the summer Doumbia has observed hearings and settlements, wrote bench memos and made recommendations on rulings.
“Judge Payne has been accommodating and reassuring from the jump, and everyone at the court is so willing to help," Doumbia said. "In a time where many summer jobs got canceled, I'm grateful that she kept us. Although the COVID situation changed how the world works, I don't think my experience would have been different.
"A direct physical approach would indeed be best in some instances, but this situation teaches us how to be independent while getting the job done.”