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Spring 2023 Alumni Newsletter

The Southern Illinois School of Law is celebrating its 50th anniversary, marking a half-century of excellence in legal education and service to the community. Founded in 1972, with the first class starting in 1973, the law school has become a leading institution in the Midwest, attracting students from across the region and beyond.

Over the years, the Southern Illinois School of Law has earned a reputation for its commitment to experiential learning, social justice, and diversity. Its faculty includes nationally recognized scholars and practitioners who are dedicated to preparing students for successful careers in law and advocacy.

To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the law school is holding a series of events and activities throughout the year, including a gala dinner, lectures, and a 50th Anniversary Book tour. These events will bring together alumni, faculty, staff, and students to celebrate the school's achievements and reflect on its impact on the legal profession and the community.

Dean and Professor of Law



• 2023 Class Speaker – Reyna Herrera 

• Professor Bill Drennan was nominated by the Class of 2023 for being the Outstanding

Faculty Member during their tenure. 

• Dr. Sameer Vohra delivered the Keynote address.

• 77 graduates walked in the ceremony.

• Assistant Dean Judi Ray was recognized for her service to the School of Law, she will retire in December 2023.  


by Pete Rosenbery

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra, a 2011 graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Law, delivered the keynote at the law school’s commencement on May 12.

Graduating first in his class, Vohra earned his joint J.D./M.D. from the SIU School of Law and SIU School of Medicine in 2011. A general pediatrician who also holds a degree in public policy, Vohra was the founding chair of the SIU School of Medicine’s Department of Population Science and Policy and an associate professor of pediatrics, public health, medical humanities and law,  a practicing primary care pediatrician and interim chair of the state’s Children’s Mental Health Partnership when Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed him director of the state’s public health agency, effective Aug. 1, 2022.

“I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Vohra when he chaired the department of Population Science and Policy at the School of Medicine,” SIU School of Law Dean Camille Davidson said. “He is a transformational leader who is dedicated to rural and underserved populations. He embodies the service mission of the SIU School of Law and SIU School of Medicine.”

‘Monumental’ experience

Vohra, who was from Westmont, Illinois, earned his undergraduate degrees in political science and science in human culture from Northwestern University, when he enrolled in SIU’s six-year joint-degree program. Returning to SIU is special, said Vohra, who noted he had lived his entire life in the Chicago area before coming to Carbondale.

“My time at the law school was monumental in providing me an understanding of the state of Illinois and opening my eyes to the state’s diversity and the challenges that are faced in many of the rural and smalltown communities of the state,” he said.

While the experience was a “real culture shock,” Vohra said, he ended up meeting “some of my very best friends to this day.”

“These were people who saw the world differently than I did, and yet I was able to forge deep personal connections that improved my knowledge and understanding of the world to this day,” Vohra said. “I also found incredible mentors at SIU Law, including faculty members like Gene Basanta, Sheila Simon and Tom Britton. These were people who instilled in me a belief that I could accomplish anything I set my heart to. It provided me an incredible boost of confidence that continues to power me throughout my career.”

A ‘call to action’

Vohra discussed a few broad topics with the law school graduates, starting with his personal story and law school experience, and describing how impactful it was in his life and career. He also shared how the lessons the graduates learned over the last three years and the friendships they have made “will be vital to their future success, both personally and professionally.”

“And finally, I placed before them a call to action in this critical time in our state and country’s history in which their impact and their service will be essential in shaping and improving the lives of the people that they interact with in their legal careers,” he said.



Thirteen high-achieving juniors and seniors from colleges around the country gained insight on legal careers and preparing for law school next week at Southern Illinois University School of Law’s Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute.

The institute, Sunday through Saturday, May 21-27, is part of SIU Carbondale’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are a priority for the SIU System and one of the pillars of the Imagine 2030 strategic plan,” said Camille Davidson, SIU School of Law dean. “The School of Law is dedicated to diversifying the legal profession. We were excited to welcome these bright, talented undergraduate students to our campus and hope they will return to Carbondale as Salukis to earn their law degrees and become lawyers.”

During the week, students participated in legal writing exercises, case briefings and a simulated law class, and they learned about identifying legal career opportunities and financing law school. In addition, they networked with community leaders and visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee; the Armstrong Teasdale litigation firm in St. Louis; the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office in Jackson and Jackson County Courthouse in Murphysboro. See the institute’s program for full details.

The institute is free and includes food and housing, an online Law School Admission Test (LSAT) prep course and transportation to events.

Participating students were rising juniors and seniors from SIUC, Xavier University of Louisiana, the University of Scranton, Morehouse College, Howard University, and the University of Illinois Champaign.

At the end of the week, students were awarded a Southern Illinois University School of Law scholarship in the amount of $25,000! This scholarship will be distributed and applied in three equal installments ($8,333 each) during each of their three years in law school. It is contingent upon their applying and being admitted into SIU School of Law.

Deidre Powell, an associate in the Armstrong Teasdale litigation group St. Louis office and a 2021 SIU law school alumna, assisted with the inaugural institute in May 2022 and is this year’s program coordinator.


“Be Sweet, Be Gentle, Be Kind, Be a Ramon Escapa”

The SIU School of Law and Dean Camille Davidson hosted a Memorial Bench Dedication and Reception for Judge Ramon Escapa (‘09) on May 30th. Funds for the bench were raised by family, classmates, and friends. Professor Sheila Simon, Kyle Oehmke (‘09), Delio Calzolari ('07) classmates and friends to Escapa, spoke at the dedication. Any additional funds donated will go to the Veteran’s Legal Assistance Program Clinic. 

If you would like to learn more or donate in Judge Escapa’s honor please click here.

The SIU School of Law is so thankful to the Honorable and Mrs. Tom and Ellen Schanzle-Haskins, both in the inaugural class, for hosting us at their home in Springfield in April for a fundraising event. 

It was great to see alumni from the area while celebrating the last 50 years and looking forward to the next 50 years!


OCTOBER 18 – Hiram H. Lesar Lecture featuring Jill Wine-Banks, one of the prosecutors during the Watergate scandal, as well as the first woman to serve as the US General Counsel of the Army.

OCTOBER 20 – 22 Homecoming Weekend featuring events throughout such as building tours, the Alumni Tailgate, Chili Trivia night, and a breakfast honoring the inaugural class.  

MARCH 23, 2024 – SIU LAW’s 50th Gala Celebration. Details will be announced soon!

50th Anniversary Book Tour dates will be announced soon!

Fill out this form to make sure we have your most up-to-date contact information. 


Simon, Behan, and Heisner showing off their custom capes made by Professor Simon.


Outstanding Teacher – Christopher Behan, Professor of Law

Outstanding Scholar – Sheila Simon, Assistant Professor of Law

Outstanding Teacher Support – Cynthia Heisner, Faculty Secretary 


L-R: Justice James Moore ('77), Justice Michael McHaney ('82), Justice Mark Boie, and Justice Barry Vaughan ('88).


Thursday, March 30th the 5th District Appellate Court for the State of Illinois was in session at the SIU School of Law. The justices, the attorneys, and the clerks all had connections to SIU, and our students were excited to witness the process. Two oral arguments took place one criminal and one civil. Thank you to the 5th District Appellate Court and the US Marshal Service for the opportunity for our students!


• SIU LAW raised $103,345 on Day of Giving this year, placing 7th in Dollars Raised by Department.

• SIU School of Law was proud to accept the 2023 School Diversity Champion Award from the Vice Chancellor for Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Equity and Inclusion Office.

• Tina Sickinger, Graduate Recruitment and Retention Coordinator for the SIU School of Law, Center for International Education and the Graduate School was awarded the SIUC Staff Excellence Award.

• 3L Alexandra Williams was awarded the SIU Student Distinguished Service Award.


SIU LAW’s Golden Year: 50 Years of Legal Education

SIU LAW Journal hosted its symposium with the theme of the 50th Anniversary. The Symposium held on April 14, reflected on the history and successes of the School of Law through panels and speakers providing insight, personal reflections and experiences, and plans for the future.

Due to an unexpected power outage in the early morning hours, the morning sessions were held in the formal lounge using natural light. Despite a few setbacks, it was a wonderful day spent reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the next 50 years.



by Pete Rosenbery

Stephen Alexander Vaden, who serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of International Trade, will discuss how many policy and legal disputes are being shepherded for resolution through a trade law context and what legal doctrines and structural factors may be implicated by this trend during a lecture next week at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Law.

Vaden presented “Trade Über Alles: How Trade Law Dominates Everything from Agriculture to the Environment” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, in the law school’s Lesar Law Building Courtroom.

The Court of International Trade has jurisdiction over matters originating from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Customs Service involving tariffs applied on goods imported from overseas. The court’s jurisdiction is “largely appellate in nature, and the majority of our cases are handled similarly to petitions for review that are filed before the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals,” Vaden said.

Agriculture, international trade are connected

Zvi Rosen, an assistant professor of law, said the goal of the lecture is to connect regional and agricultural concerns to international trade.

“You can’t look at agriculture and international trade as disconnected,” Rosen said, adding that, “Conservation isn’t a distinct goal from an ideologically different calculus, but it’s in fact all one calculus.”

Vaden said  the lecture provided information about the Court of International Trade, its unique role in the federal judiciary, and for law students, why they “should care about and pay attention to trade law.”

Sixth lecture in series

Vaden noted that he is “particularly honored to accept an invitation to speak from a law school that is both close to home and serves students from rural areas seeking to enter the legal profession.”

The series was established in 2015 through a gift from Emma K. “Katy” Simonds. The funds support a lecture, symposium or debate on a topic of current or recurring public interest, which explores commonsense solutions to issues related to the common good by applying principles of limited government, popular sovereignty, personal liberty, personal responsibility and federalism.


SIU School of Law hosted Judge Milton Wharton on Tuesday, March 21st as our William L. Beatty Jurist in Residence. His lecture on "Perspectives from the Bench: One Bird's Eye View" was educational and full of valuable information for our students.

The Honorable Judge Milton Wharton recently retired as a justice from the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court. He also served as Circuit Judge in the Twentieth Circuit of Illinois for many years. Before becoming a Judge, he was a Public Defender in St. Clair County. He graduated from DePaul University School of Law in 1974 and SIUE in 1969.

Third-year SIU School of Law students, from left, Joseph Strater, Sophia Allen and Caitlynne Dixon won the recent 2023 National Child Welfare and Adoption Law Moot Court competition.


by Pete Rosenbery

Working together and knowing one another’s strengths is critical to success in any team activity, even apart from sports, as Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Law moot court team knows well.

Third-year (3L) law students Sophia Allen, Caitlynne Dixon and Joseph Strater used their hours of research, writing and numerous oral practice rounds over nearly four months — while maintaining regular class loads — to capture the 2023 National Child Welfare and Adoption Law Moot Court championship. Hosted by Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, the March 17-18 competition featured 24 teams from 18 different schools and 11 states. The final round oral arguments were at the Ohio Supreme Court.

‘Ready for anything’

Allen, Dixon and Strater reached the quarterfinals as second-year students in 2022. This year, team members estimated more than 80 hours of writing, editing and rewriting the appellate brief before submitting it to judges in late January, and then practicing their oral presentations three to five times a week for about seven weeks with local attorneys and SIU Law faculty serving as mock judges. Because the competition was at the end of SIU’s spring break, the team stayed in Carbondale leading to the event and practiced at the law school most days, Dixon said.

“In a competition like this, it is important to be able to understand both sides of the arguments and be able to give helpful responses to all questions asked by the panel of judges,” said Cheryl Anderson, professor and moot court program director. “Caitlynne, Sophia and Joe took the constructive feedback they received seriously, and by the time we went to the competition, they were ready for anything.  Every round they argued, they got better and better, even as they went up against stronger and stronger teams from schools across the country.”

Hypothetical case involved visitation rights

The hypothetical case involved a biological, custodial mother of a child appealing a court order that required her to permit a former caretaker to have regular visitation with the child. The caretaker argued that her relationship with the child went beyond paid helper to that of a “de facto” parent; that is, someone who fills the parental role even though there is no biological, marital or adoptive relationship. The mother argued a state statute that permitted courts to order visitation by “a grandparent, great grandparent, stepparent, or other family member” did not permit visitation by a person who claimed de facto parentage status, and even if it did, such an order would violate her fundamental right to direct the care, custody and control of her child protected under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, Anderson explained.

The team did not know which side they would advocate for until the competition.

Teamwork is essential

Allen, who earned Best Final Round Oralist, noted that the need to work together to make arguments cohesive. While a brief is written by the entire team, two members argue in each oral argument round and be ready to argue either side of the case.

“All three of us have to work together, or our arguments would not be cohesive,” said Allen, who is from Lexington, Kentucky. “The more cohesive we are, the harder it is for opposing teams to poke holes in our argument. I think our biggest strength is how well we work together. We were on the same page from the onset, and we all worked hard on the problem.”

The team’s “great ability” to work together efficiently and each person carry out specific duties was a strength, Strater said.  

Dixon and Allen argued for the mother in five of the seven preliminary rounds; Allen and Strater argued for the caretaker in one preliminary round and the final round.

This year, there was a shared team goal of advancing past the quarterfinals, Dixon said.

“Joe, Sophia and I made a strong team because we had defined roles, responsibilities and collective goals,” said Dixon, who is from O’Fallon, Missouri. “Because the three of us worked together last year, we knew what was expected of each person and how to highlight our skills.”


By Pete Rosenbery

Radhika Rao, a law professor who has written extensively about reproductive rights, delivered the 2023 John and Marsha Ryan Bioethicist in Residence lecture at the SIU School of Law on Wednesday, March 8.

Rao, a professor and the Harry and Lillian Hastings Research Chair at the UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, presented “Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: Roe, Dobbs and Future of Abortion.”

Rao said that the focus of her lecture was be a critique of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs decision and its “cramped, archaic vision of looking to history in 1868 to determine our fundamental rights, its denial of equality to women, minorities and the poor, and the polarizing impact it is having on our country, in terms of abortion laws.”

She also described the history of cases, including the 1973 Roe v. Wade and the 1992 Casey decisions “leading up to Dobbs, and sketch out the possible implications of Dobbs for the future.”

Rao earned her law degree from Harvard Law School and was Supreme Court editor of the Harvard Law Review. Rao also clerked for Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and Thurgood Marshall.

Rao also visited with students while at the SIU School of Law, and on March 9, presented the lecture to faculty, staff, and students at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

Longstanding lecture series

This is the School of Law’s 18th bioethicist-in-residence lecture, and the 16th since John C. and Dr. Marsha G. Ryan endowed the visiting lecture series. Founded in 2006, the John and Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence program supports an annual residence and lecture by a law or medicine ethics scholar for the SIU schools of law and medicine.

With SIU School of Law Dean Camille Davidson, center, law school alumni recently sworn in to present written briefs and argue cases before the nation’s highest court are (from left) William Mann, Shekera Algarin, Aaron Hopkins, Thomas Bowman, Candice Stearns and Kacey Eisenhauer.


By Pete Rosenbery

Six Southern Illinois University School of Law alumni recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to take oaths to become members of the U.S. Supreme Court bar, which means they are now eligible to present written briefs and argue cases before the nation’s highest court.

Dean Camille Davidson presented each of the alumni to Chief Justice John Roberts, who accepted them into the court on Feb. 22. Each applicant is required to have endorsements of two members of the Supreme Court bar.

Alumni by hometown and the year they graduated from law school are:

• Shekera Algarin, Brooklyn, New York, 1999

• Thomas Bowman, Decatur, Illinois, 2016

• Kacey Eisenhauer, Carbondale, Illinois, 2017

• Aaron Hopkins, West Frankfort, Illinois, 2000

• William Mann, Guntersville, Alabama, 2014

• Candice Stearns, Springfield, Illinois, 2016

A seventh alum, Amanda Lesinki, an attorney from Corpus Christi, Texas, and a 2018 SIU School of Law graduate, was unable to attend and sworn in by written motion in court.

                                                            FACULTY AND STAFF UPDATES

Doug Lind, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Compliance, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law

Professor Douglas Lind joined the faculty in 2007. He received a B.A. from Purdue University, a J.D. from Valparaiso University, and an M.I.L.S. from The University of Michigan. Prior to coming to SIU, Professor Lind was the Head of Collections at Georgetown Law Library where he also taught Advanced Legal Research and Seminar Research Methods.

His scholarship focuses on transmission history of 19th century printed materials. He is a two-time recipient of the Joseph L. Andrews Bibliographic Award, a national award which recognizes a significant contribution to legal biographical literature.


Angela Upchurch, Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Curriculum Development

Professor Angela Upchurch joined the law faculty at Southern Illinois University School of Law in 2014.  She is a recognized expert in law school pedagogy, children and family law, and procedural law.

Professor Upchurch has presented on legal pedagogy, and her innovative approaches to integrating technology into the law school classroom, at several national teaching conferences and faculty workshops at law schools across the country.  Professor Upchurch drew upon her innovative use of educational technology to co-author Click & Learn: Civil Procedure, an online interactive book for law students published by Carolina Academic Press. In 2020, Professor Upchurch was awarded the Southern Illinois University-Level Tenured/Tenure-Track Teaching Excellence Award and received the permanent title of Distinguished Teacher.  In 2022, she joined the Editorial Board for the Journal of Law Teaching and Learning.

Read Professor Upchurch's full bio here

Dale Aschemann,
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, Civil Practice Clinic

Professor Aschemann joined the faculty after more than two decades in private practice concentrating in complex litigation and representing whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the Federal False Claims Act and analogous state statutes. His relator representation on behalf of the United States and various state governments addressed fraud in the areas of government healthcare programs, environmental clean-up programs, and procurement fraud, among others.

Professor Aschemann earned his B.A. in political science at Southern Illinois University and his J.D. at SIU School of Law in 1998. He is licensed in Illinois and has practiced in all Illinois U.S. District Courts, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He has served as an Accredited Attorney for claims for veteran’s benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs and is admitted to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Kate Hanson, Director of Development

Kate joined the SIU School of Law in January of 2023. Kate oversees all of the law school's fundraising and manages relationships with alumni.

Her duties include planning fundraising events, interacting with former donors to encourage ongoing contributions and seeking out opportunities for financial support. 

Contact Kate here with any questions about sponsoring a lunch or dinner, donating or fundraising opportunities.

Casey Parker, Director of Career Services

Casey is the director of Career Services at SIU LAW. As director, Casey works with students to secure jobs both while in school and when they graduate. Career Services holds workshops throughout the school year, which include, resume writing, mock interviews, and career options. 

Casey received a Bachelor of Arts in Administration of Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1999, and a Juris Doctor from SIU LAW in 2003. 

Before taking a position with SIU LAW, Casey worked with the Department of Corrections, the Jackson County State’s Attorneys Office, and the City of Carbondale. Casey was the Coordinator for the Office of Equity and Compliance at SIU for twelve years. 

In 2022, Casey received the Lindell W. Sturgis Memorial Public Service Award from SIU. Casey is involved in many community organizations and loves volunteering. She also enjoys animals, beaches, and Chicago Cubs baseball!

Contact Casey here for your Career Service needs


Do you find yourself wishing you could locate your classmate from 1985? Trying to find a fellow SIU alum that works in estate planning in Indianapolis? With 360 alumni you can do both, but we need your help!  Set up your account here.    

360 Alumni is used to create a community of meaningful relationships through digital engagement. We have a lot of plans at the Law School for utilizing this service to its full potential.  We will be posting our events on this platform, and we hope you will use it to connect with your fellow alumni!


To support valuable SIU School of Law programs, like the ones mentioned in this newsletter.   

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