ALUMNI PROFILE Aisha Cornelius Edwards (JD ’05)
Deciding on where to attend law school was easy for Aisha Cornelius Edwards (JD ’05). She chose Loyola University Chicago School of Law because of its accomplished law faculty and the school’s exceptionally strong commitment to public interest law. Edwards enrolled in criminal law-related courses—including juvenile justice—and competed on a moot court team to strengthen her skills in the multifaceted discipline of advocacy.
After graduating, she followed her dream of becoming a litigator and landed at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as an assistant state’s attorney. She subsequently served as a supervising attorney for the Criminal Defense Program at Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA). While employed at CGLA, she obtained an Executive MBA focused on strategic management from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated with academic honors. She recently joined the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the United States. Edwards is the recipient of the School of Law’s Norman C. Amaker Award of Excellence and is an adjunct faculty member, where she teaches a criminal law practicum.
EMBRACING THE LAW STUDENT EXPERIENCE
Edwards says both her coursework and the numerous extracurricular activities offered beyond the classroom provided her with a solid foundation for success as a litigator and advocate for justice. During her third year of law school, Edwards was awarded Loyola’s President’s Medallion in recognition for her outstanding leadership, scholarship, and service at the School of Law.
“I was a very active law student. I served as a student clinician with Loyola’s Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, a member of the Black Law Students Association’s executive board, and chair of the school’s annual Race & Law Symposium. I also was a staff editor for the Loyola Consumer Law Review and Public Interest Law Reporter. A highlight of my law school experience was the London Comparative Advocacy program, which included a field study in London during winter break.”
HONING HER SKILLS AS A LITIGATOR
“The Juvenile Justice course I took with Professor Diane Geraghty and Criminal Procedure courses I took with Professor Jamie Carey solidified my interests in criminal law. My experiences competing on moot court and helping to coordinate the moot court program as a Moot Court Justice solidified my interests in litigation.”
“My internship at the Cook County State's Attorney's office while in law school allowed me to experience what it was like to be a prosecutor—an ambassador for justice. The connections I made while there helped me secure a job at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office after graduation.”
NEW CHAPTER: MACARTHUR FOUNDATION
Edwards recently joined the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where she serves as a program officer on its Criminal Justice team working to reducing over-incarceration and change the public’s perception of jails in America.
“I have the opportunity to apply my expertise in the criminal justice field and insights obtained from my educational pursuits to the development and implementation of the Safety and Justice Challenge, which is a national initiative with the broad goal of reducing the use of jail incarceration. I manage a caseload of active grants, mostly to local government agencies and other partners who are rethinking jails and implementing strategies to eliminate ineffective, inefficient, and unfair practices. Addressing racial inequities in the justice system and authentically engaging the community as an equal stakeholder are important tenets of the Challenge, which is something I am passionate about. The job entails a whole range of activities that are still new to me — reviewing proposals, analyzing financial records, conducting site visits, monitoring performance — all aimed at helping our grantees succeed and making local justice systems fairer.”
“I worked for eight years with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and appeals was my first assignment. I argued before the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts. Former Assistant Dean Jean Gaspardo attended my first oral argument as an attorney. It was amazing to be supported by the Loyola law faculty—even after graduation! At Cabrini Green Legal Aid, I led the Criminal Defense program. My team improved outcomes for more than 85 percent of our cases. I’m now part of an initiative at the MacArthur Foundation that is working to achieve more just outcomes on a national scale. I could not be more excited to build upon my education and professional experiences to support criminal justice reform strategies across the country.”