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Summer 2022 Alumni Newsletter

We are excited to present you with this summer newsletter to keep you informed about what's happening at the SIU School of Law. In this issue, we highlight our new Pre-Law Diversity Institute. We also celebrate our graduates who excelled, despite the challenges that they faced during their law school journey. We welcome them to the SIU Law Alumni network. SIU Law continues to thrive as we serve the Southern Illinois region and beyond.   

Dean and Professor of Law

Deans Note Grad Header


We celebrated the SIU Law Class of 2022 at commencement on May 6th. This class started their law school journey during normal times and ended their first year Zooming from home. They faced challenges during their three years, and we are so proud of all they were able to achieve. We had 72 graduates walk the stage in Shryock Auditorium surrounded by professors, friends, and family.

“We welcomed faculty, staff, families and friends to celebrate with our 2022 School of Law graduates,” Dean Davidson said. “These graduates persevered with their legal education despite the difficulties associated with the pandemic. We wish them the best as they study for the bar examination this summer, and we look forward to seeing all of our graduates next year as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary.”  

The Class of 2022 selected JAMES A. JONES II, who is from St. Louis, to be the class speaker. Jones has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, both from Jackson State University. During law school, he focused on criminal justice reform efforts through his work with the SIU Law Journal and his honors capstone project. After graduation, Jones plans to return to St. Louis and work in the commercial real estate practice group with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

CAROLYN B. SMOOT, retired First Judicial Circuit judge and a 1983 Southern Illinois University School of Law alumna, delivered the keynote address. Smoot was an attorney for 27 years before her judicial appointment in December 2010, where she was the first female circuit judge in Williamson County and the second female judge in the First Judicial Circuit. Her legal career included work as an assistant state’s attorney in Williamson County and a private practice focusing on family law, probate law, mediation, and adoptions. She also taught in and was director of SIU’s paralegal studies program. She received the law school’s Women in Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2020.

SHEILA SIMON, Assistant Professor of Law, was the faculty speaker. Chancellor AUSTIN A. LANE conferred the degrees at the ceremony led by SIU School of Law Dean Camille Davidson.

After the ceremony, newly hooded graduates JOSEPH TONDINI and CORAL SERRANO gathered with their family and friends in Marion for their wedding! The law school graduates met at Murray State University as freshmen and got engaged shortly before starting at SIU Law in 2019. They did not want to delay their wedding day any longer and decided while everyone was gathered for graduation they might as well get married. They called the day their Gradu-Wedding! Congratulations to the happy couple, we wish them the best as they study for the bar this summer.


In the fall of 2023, SIU School of Law will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. This milestone will be celebrated starting this summer through Spring 2024, with special events and other opportunities to connect, as well as the release of a commemorative book. We invite all members of SIU Law community – past and present – to celebrate this significant achievement with us! We are making stops in heavily populated alumni areas. We gathered in Paducah, Kentucky last month and will be in Peoria, Illinois on August 30th. Check your emails and our social media for the latest updates! 

We are making stops in heavily populated alumni areas. We gathered in Paducah, Kentucky at Keuler, Kelly Hutchins, Blankenship & Sigler, LLP last month and will be in Peoria, Illinois at Stephen Heine Law P.C. on August 30th. Check your emails and our social media for the latest updates!



The Southern Illinois University School of Law is hosted the inaugural Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute on May 25-29. The Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute operates for and benefits diverse college and university rising juniors and seniors who desire information and strategies to prepare for law school. The institute is part of SIU Carbondale’s commitment to diversifying the legal profession.

Fourteen high-achieving participants learned about the application and admissions process, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), how to properly read and review a case, legal writing, paying for law school, and various career paths.

The program consisted of presentations by LSAC, a courthouse tour and in-person court proceeding (felony hearing), mock criminal law school course. Additionally, students visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday, May 26, and participated in a dinner and discussion with members of the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association. On Friday, May 27, the students went to St. Louis to visit the Armstrong Teasdale law office and take part in a diversity panel discussion with attorneys Gabriela Baeza-Stout, Paul L. Brusati and Sarah Sise; Kahalah Clay, chief legal counsel with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board; Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Milton S. Wharton and Bob Wallace Jr., former St. Louis Rams vice president and general counsel and current chairman of Thompson Coburn LLPs sports law group. On Sunday, May 29th, Dean Camille Davidson surprised the students by awarding each participant a $25,000 scholarship to the SIU School of Law. Students must meet enrollment requirements and be admitted to the program to utilize the scholarships. This capped off an amazing week of learning and exploring.

The Program Coordinator for the summer institute was SIU Carbondale Law School graduate Deidre Powell (’21). Powell is an associate at Armstrong Teasdale in their litigation practice group.

This inaugural program was possible because of the generous support of School of Law alum, Kyle Stokien (’04) and the St. Louis Bar Foundation. Stokien, who is the Managing Director of Executive Financial Management at Goldman Sachs, took advantage of the Goldman Sachs Matching Gift Program.  He donated $12,500 and Goldman Sachs matched his gift, creating a $25,000 donation for the Summer Institute. Stokien wants to encourage his fellow alumni to check if their company has corporate matching. The St. Louis Bar Foundation also awarded the School of Law a grant for $1,500 written by Cindy Walker from the SIU Foundation.


by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — In a historic move to create pathways to degree and advanced degree completion and to diversify the pipeline to the legal community, Governors State University (GSU) this week entered an agreement with Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) that will allow students to earn both bachelor’s and juris doctor (JD) degrees in six years.

SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin A. Lane, center at table, and Governors State University President and
SIU Carbondale alumna Cheryl Green, second from left on screen, celebrate the institutions’ new
partnership today (June 30) during a virtual ceremony. With Lane are, from left, School of Law Dean
Camille M. Davidson and Lizette Chevalier, associate provost for academic programs. 
(Photo by Russell Bailey)

Under the unique 3 + 3 partnership, a mapped curriculum will be provided for students in anthropology and sociology, English, and political science majors. According to the partnership, students will fulfill their senior year of undergraduate school at GSU, while enrolled in their first year of law school and living at SIU Carbondale.

The partnership will shave up to a year off the traditional seven-year juris doctor timeline and also allow both schools to explore other concurrent degrees such as JD/MBA, JD/MSW or JD/MPA.

GSU President Cheryl Green first set the BA/JD program as a goal early in her presidential tenure, which began in 2020. “Governors State University is honored to work with the Southern Illinois University School of Law to advance the ideals of equity and inclusion in the field of law. We know that the number one barrier to degree completion is financial, and this partnership was created with that in mind. By offering students an opportunity to complete two degrees in six years, we are improving their chances of success while saving them thousands of dollars.”

“I am excited about the opportunity for us to remove barriers and to expand diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the field of law. I am also excited about creating opportunities for GSU students that don’t currently exist on our campus. This is an innovative partnership that we can all be proud of and that I look forward to advancing on our campus,” Dr. Green said.

Green, who earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees at SIU Carbondale, said the partnership represents a full-circle moment for her.

“Southern Illinois University is a top-rated research institution that allowed me to achieve a high-quality education without student debt. I’m proud to offer Governors State’s Jaguars the same opportunities that served as the foundation of my career,” she said.

Camille M. Davidson, SIU School of Law dean, said she is thrilled to collaborate with an SIU Carbondale alumna to remove barriers to law degree completion. “President Green is a Saluki, and it's exciting to work with her and her team,’’ she said.

“There are so many professional opportunities for people who have a juris doctor. These collaborations give us an opportunity to share information with undergraduate students and help prepare them to succeed in law school.”

Davidson noted the lack of diversity in the legal profession, citing statistics show that the field has approximately 4.5% African Americans and 4% Latinx. In seeking a partner that offered academic excellence and diversity, GSU was a perfect fit. Governors State is both an MSI, minority serving institution, and emerging HSI, Hispanic serving institution.

SIU’s efforts to diversify the legal profession also include a summer program to provide rising college juniors and seniors preparation for law school, insights into opportunities after graduation and interaction with attorneys, law students and law school faculty.

“One of GSU's students was selected to participate in our inaugural Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute,” Davidson said. “We hope to have more participants next year.”

About Governors State University

Governors State University is a four-year comprehensive university that serves nearly 5,000 students on a rich and culturally diverse campus outside of Chicago. The university, founded in 1969, provides an exceptional and accessible, high-value undergraduate and graduate education to individuals seeking to make a local, regional and global impact.


Carolyn Taft Grosboll was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at the May 2022 Commencement. The Distinguished Service Award should be reserved for persons who have contributed importantly to Southern Illinois, to the nation, to the world, to the State, and/or to the University. This award is an award from the main SIU Carbondale Campus and must be approved by the SIU System Board of Trustees.

Grosboll served as Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court from January 2011 until her retirement on November 30, where she “played a leading and pivotal role in modernizing and streamlining operations” of the court, while improving “communication, enhanced case management and expanded access to the general public.” A two-degree SIU Carbondale alumna, she earned her bachelor’s degree in history in 1984 and a law degree from the SIU School of Law in 1987. The nomination notes Grosboll “contributed significantly to the administration of justice and the preservation of natural resources in Illinois throughout her decades of public service to the State of Illinois.”

During her years in private practice Grosboll was a partner in a Springfield law firm and also “excelled as legal counsel and then director of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, president of the Illinois Audubon Society and president of the Board of Directors of Sojourn Shelter and Services, which provides services to domestic violence victims.” The nomination notes that in all of her endeavors, Grosboll built a “reputation as an intelligent, innovative, effective and unflaggingly professional contributor to the legal system, the environment and public welfare.”


Governor JB Pritzker has appointed Dr. Sameer Vohra, a distinguished pediatrician and healthcare policy expert, to lead the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) beginning August 1. Dr. Vohra, the Founding Chair of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s (SIU-SOM) Department of Population Science and Policy, follows Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who stepped down in March after leading IDPH and the State of Illinois through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m proud to announce the Illinois Department of Public Health’s next visionary leader: Dr. Sameer Vohra,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Dr. Vohra is accomplished in every sense of the word. His experience and education transcend sectors and fields, bringing a well-rounded perspective to this agency. As a leader in state and national health policy, I have absolute confidence in Dr. Vohra’s ability to continue shaping a stronger IDPH for the 21st century.”

Dr. Vohra is a general pediatrician who holds degrees in law and public policy. He is a cross-disciplinary leader in state and national health policy formulation, and his recent focus has been on improving health outcomes in Central and Southern Illinois. An Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Public Health, Medical Humanities, and Law at SIU-SOM, he currently serves the State of Illinois as the Interim Chair of the Children’s Mental Health Partnership.

He completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Chicago and earned a Master of Arts in public policy from the University of Chicago. He holds a medical doctorate from SIU-SOM; a juris doctorate from SIU School of Law graduating first in his class; and a Bachelor of Arts in political science and science in human culture with honors from Northwestern University.

"I am humbled that the Governor has entrusted me to serve the people of our State as the 20th Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra. “Governor Pritzker, along with the dedicated staff of IDPH, have served our State admirably during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am honored to lead this agency into the future, continuing to keep us safe from emerging illnesses, supporting our public health workers, and promoting wellness in every community across Illinois."


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.

We are in the process of creating Class Groups that can be utilized to reconnect with your graduating class. Make sure to be looking in your email for the invite!

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!


Students at SIU Law have an incredible opportunity to get practical experience through our vibrant experiential education program. This summer, one generous firm hired one of our students, Kameron Clay, as an extern. Simmons Hanly Conroy A National Law Firm also offered housing and a stipend to Klay.

Shelly Page, Director of Experiential Education, is excited at the possibilities these kinds of alliances and collaborations create for our students to graduate practice ready and familiar with the communities in which they will one day litigate and practice.

Klay said, “Truthfully, I could never have imagined myself having such a productive and transformative summer. Simmons Hanly Conroy has enabled me to expand my network in the legal field and invaluable firsthand trial experience.”


Project Upward Bound is an educational assistance program designed to assist qualifying high school students in developing the skills and motivation necessary for applying to and completing college. Rising 3L Justine Newman and rising 2L Rachel Burke are teaching an elective course for the 6-week summer program, other electives included robotics or architecture. Seven high school students from the southern Illinois area, ranging from 9th to 12th grade, come to class every weekday to learn about various aspects of the law. Their main project is a trial exercise, where students are given a mock trial case file and must prep an entire criminal case. Students will learn how to craft opening statements, closing arguments, how to direct and cross-examine witnesses, and how to formulate objections. The course is being held in the courtroom to make it as realistic as possible. Newman says, “ The students have been very engaged and seem to be learning a lot! We have had a great time.” A few of the high school students are interested in potentially going to law school one day, so this course is offering a taste of what it is like in law school. Conducting a trial might sound like a huge undertaking, but Newman and Burke think their students are up for the challenge.


Professor Rebecca O’Neill, from SIU School of Law Civil Practice Legal Clinic, Billy Rogers, from GRIS, Golden Rainbows of Illinois South, and law student, Rebecca Yocum, from the School Law’s student group, OUTLAW collaborated to hold a workshop discussing basic estate planning for the LGBTQA community and to address important matters people should consider when planning for not only death but also for circumstances that occur during our lifetimes. The workshop was held at the Law School in April and was well attended. 


Dale J. Aschemann, Director of VLAP and Assistant Professor of Practice

Professor Aschemann joined the faculty of SIU School of Law in May 2022 after 23 years 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, summa cum laude, at Southern Illinois University and his J.D. at SIU School of Law in 1998. He is licensed in Illinois and is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Northern, Central, and Southern Districts of Illinois, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He is also an Accredited Attorney for claims for veteran’s benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs.  

Professor Aschemann served in the United States Marine Corps from 1984-1990 during which time he served as an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officer School in Kaneohe Bay HI and as a Senior Drill Instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, CA.

Artie Berns, Assistant Professor and Head of Public Services in the Law Library 

Prof. Berns teaches legal research and legal technology skills.

His research interests include: legal technology instruction, legal research instruction and methodology, technology and the law.




Kelly Collinsworth, Assistant Professor of Practice

Collinsworth joined the faculty of Southern Illinois School of Law in summer 2022. Prior to joining the faculty, Collinsworth was an Associate Dean and Director of Experiential Education at University of South Dakota Knudson School. Of Law. She previously taught at Morehead State University in eastern Kentucky where she was the Legal Studies Coordinator, University Pre-Law Advisor, and Director of Education Abroad. Her practice experience includes serving as a staff attorney at Legal Aid of the Bluegrass and Kentucky Legal Aid. She also served as Assistant County Attorney for Bath County, Kentucky. Professor Collinsworth earned her Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown College and her Juris Doctor from the Ohio State University. She is licensed to practice law in Kentucky and South Dakota.

Professor Collinsworth’s research interests include law and popular culture, access to justice, and high-impact teaching practices. She particularly enjoys connecting her research and teaching to the fictional world of Harry Potter. 

Tina Sickinger, Graduate, International, & Law Recruitment & Retention Coordinator

The Graduate Recruitment & Retention Coordinator position works as part of a collaborative team-member across the Graduate School, Center for International Education, and School of Law. The position reports to the Assistant Dean for Admissions & Financial Aid at the School of Law.

Tina functions as a cooperative liaison working with all graduate program coordinators, admissions and recruiting staff as well as administration to enhance recruiting efforts of new graduate domestic and international and Juris Doctor students to ensure a smooth transition to SIU Carbondale. In this role, Tina takes pride in being an ambassador for the university and SIU system as a two-time graduate. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education and a Master of Science in Education in Higher Education with focus on College Student Personnel. Previously, Tina held the role of immigration specialist within the Center for International Education and was the Responsible Officer of the State Department’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Program (EVP), Designated School Official for the F-1 Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), and provided service to the center for nearly 12 years.

As the Graduate Recruitment & Retention Coordinator, Tina hopes that anyone interested in studying law, policy, government, or wishing to be an engaged civic leader will come talk to her about SIU Carbondale and the School of Law. “At SIU, we pride ourselves on access and opportunity while immersing in a diverse environment on a global campus that works to ensure generational equity through education. Talk to me today to find out about the opportunities at the School of Law.”

Tina is native to the St. Louis area and currently lives in Carterville, Illinois with her two children Tucker and Layla, husband Brian, and dog Mauser.


SIU Law Professor Patricia McCubbin was interviewed by ProPublica about the Supreme Court's decision to limit the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants.

SIU Law Professor Cindy Buys observes firsthand Ukrainian humanitarian effort while teaching in Poland.


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