Justice Elena Kagan Will Give Commencement Speech at the University of New Mexico

May 17, 2011

Who better could a college school of law name as a commencement speaker than a former Harvard Law School dean and current Supreme Court justice? Some schools probably don't get lucky enough to land a speaker with comparable credentials, but the University of New Mexico (UNM) was fortunate enough to nab Elena Kagan, the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, for its 2011 law school graduation ceremony.

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A 'Terrific Commencement Speaker'

By a vote of 63-37, Kagan was confirmed by the Senate as the court's 112th justice on August 5, 2010, succeeding retired Justice John Paul Stevens. She is only the fourth female justice to ever serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A top U.S. constitutional and administrative law scholar and academic leader, Kagan became the Justice Department's first woman Solicitor General in January 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as the 11th dean of Harvard Law School (2003-09). She also served four years in the Clinton Administration, including roles as the Associate White House Counsel and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

The school's reaction to Kagan's availability? Graduating students and administrators alike were excited. Kevin Washburn, dean of the UNM School of Law, said, 'We are absolutely thrilled to have Elena Kagan as our commencement speaker. She will make an excellent Supreme Court justice and, for our purposes, a terrific commencement speaker.'

UNM Makes History

Located in Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico is the second-largest higher education institution in the state. UNM's School of Law is the only law school in New Mexico. Its clinical law program has been highly ranked (#7 in 2010) among law schools by U.S. News & World Report.

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While other fine speakers may have presented commencement addresses at UNM, it's unlikely any have matched Kagan's high profile. Her attendance will mark the first time a U.S. Supreme Court justice has done the honors at this university. It will also be the first commencement speech delivered by Kagan since her confirmation. The graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 14th.

So notable is Kagan's visit that tickets are being issued for the ceremony, the first time this has ever happened at UNM, and it's unlikely all those who wish to attend will be able to do so. 'Bringing in a Supreme Court justice - everybody in the state wants to hear her,' said Washburn.

Before attending graduation ceremonies and listening to a commencement speaker, you'll have to make it through law school first. Find helpful hints on how to do so here.

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