Angela Onwuachi-Willig ’94 Receives Michael A. Olivas Award for Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Mentoring in the Legal Academy

January 11, 2024

Yesenia Mozo

A headshot of Onwuachi-Willig wearing braids and a red blazer She smiles into the camera.
Angela Onwuachi-Willig ’94, Grinnell College Trustee and Dean and Ryan Roth Gallo Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law.

Grinnell College Trustee Angela Onwuachi-Willig ’94, dean and Ryan Roth Gallo Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law, was presented with the Michael A. Olivas Award for Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Mentoring in the Legal Academy by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The award was announced at an award ceremony honoring excellence in legal education on Jan. 4, 2024.

The Michael A. Olivas Award is presented annually, recognizing individuals who embody Olivas’ dedication to promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity in the legal academy. The award also honors individuals who have historically mentored junior and aspiring faculty from marginalized backgrounds. Onwuachi-Willig, who has an extensive background in highlighting and promoting diversity in the legal field, received the award alongside Michael Pinard, Francis & Harriet Iglehart Professor of Law and faculty director of the Gibson-Banks Center for Race and the Law at University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Onwuachi-Willig is a renowned legal scholar, expert in critical race theory, employment discrimination, and family law, and author of According to Our Hearts: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and the Law of the Multiracial Family (Yale 2013). She has appeared in prominent law journals, including Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, and Vanderbilt Law Review.

A Black women with red glasses and a bright orange shirt smiles alongside a gray-haired man wearing a suit.
Onwuachi-Willig poses with the Michael A. Olivas Award alongside Michael Pinard, co-recipient of the award.

In response to receiving the award, Onwuachi-Willig declared, “I am honored and humbled to receive the Olivas Award precisely because of the extraordinary scholar, teacher, mentor, activist, friend, and human being that Michael Olivas was and the many contributions he made to the academy, including co-designing the DACA program and co-drafting the Texas Ten Percent Plan.”

Before leading Boston University’s School of Law in 2018, she served as Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and was on the faculty of the University of Iowa College of Law and University of California, Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall. In 2016, Onwuachi-Willig received the Collegiate Teaching Award at the University of Iowa College of Law and the Marion Huit Award in 2012, a University of Iowa award recognizing a faculty member for outstanding teaching and assistance to students, exceptional research and writing, and dedicated service to the University and the surrounding community. In 2021, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, and she was one of five Black women deans to receive the inaugural AALS Impact Award for their work in establishing the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project. Other honors include selection as a finalist for the Supreme Court of Iowa and election to the Iowa Bar Foundation in 2011, the 2016 Gertrude Rush Award from the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys and National Bar Association, and the 2024 Boston Bar Association Voice of Change Award.

Onwuachi-Willig, in a bright red silky blazer, sits on a red couch in front of a glass window background.

In addition to her service on the Grinnell College Board of Trustees, Dean Onwuachi-Willig serves on the Law School Admissions Council Board, the Purple Campaign to End Sexual Harassment Advisory Board, and Senators Warren and Markey’s Judicial Selection and U.S. Attorney Selection Committees. She also chaired the AALS Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Minority Law Teachers and Students and developed an official Statement of Good Practices on the Recruitment and Retention of Minority Law Teachers. In addition, she founded the Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop, where participants produced hundreds of articles, books, and essays, assisting dozens of women on the path to tenure.

About the Michael A. Olivas Award and Association of American Law Schools (AALS)

The award commemorates Professor Michael A. Olivas, whose extensive work as an administrative leader and community servant is magnified by his commitment to social justice work. He was most recently the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law Emeritus at the University of Houston and the Director of the University of Houston’s Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance. As a renowned scholar and teacher, he mentored those from underrepresented backgrounds and women faculty aspirants. He actively sought to diversify the legal academy and profession as an elected member of the American Law Institute and the National Academy of Education and recipient of the AALS Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and the Law, the association’s highest honor. In honor of his passing in April 2022, the Olivas Award was memorialized on his behalf.

Recipients for the award are nominated and chosen by a committee composed of individuals from five AALS sections, including Civil Rights, Education Law, Immigration Law, Minority Groups, and Student Services. The committee examines nominees’ commitment to increasing the diversity of the legal academy in both their scholarship and current work with aspiring legal professionals.

The AALS, the presenter of the Michael A. Olivas Award, was founded in 1900 and is committed to upholding and advancing excellence in legal education, promoting academic freedom, diversity, and justice. The nonprofit association consists of 176 members and 18 fee-paid law schools, which enroll and produce many of the nation’s law students, lawyers, and judges.

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