FACULTY PROFILE Carla Kupe
As director of the Professional Identity Formation course, Carla Kupe aims to generate a deeper understanding of systemic oppression
In the Professional Identity Formation (PIF) course, Program Director Carla Kupe (JD ’08) asks her law students a series of hypothetical questions. First: What do you do if your client is getting evicted after losing their job due to COVID-19? Then: How would things be different if that client were Black or Latinx? Transgender? Low income? What if they live with a grandparent? What if that grandparent is undocumented?
What that generates is a deeper understanding of systemic oppression, and what life looks like for someone at a certain intersectionality of identities,” Kupe says.
Who are you? What is your purpose in life? How can you serve your community? These questions, rooted in the Jesuit tradition, became the base of the PIF program that launched at Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2018. PIF is an anti-racism, intersectionality, and implicit bias course required for all first-year students. As director of the program, Kupe builds on a career spent fighting for equity and inclusion.
After graduating from Loyola law school, Kupe worked for the City of Chicago’s Law Department and served as director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and compliance for Chicago’s Office of Inspector General. Along the way, she founded The Impact Alliance, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting business.
“[The PIF course] equips students to be aware of themselves in a more holistic way, so they understand how they can use their powers and privileges.”
At Impact Alliance, Kupe advises nonprofit organizations, start-up companies, governmental agencies, educational institutions, and law firms. “I don’t believe in just checking a box,” says Kupe. “I don’t want to do a one-hour implicit bias workshop, and that’s all.” In addition to education, Impact Alliance conducts diversity, equity, and inclusion assessments that examine policies, vendors, stakeholders, and board members with an eye toward incorporating diversity, inclusion, and equity at all levels. “If you really want to engage with anti-racism, equity, and inclusion, it has to be done in a genuine way,” says Kupe.
Over the years, Kupe has stayed connected to Loyola through the law school’s Black Alumni and the Dean’s Diversity Council. She helped launch the PIF course in 2018 and became director in 2020. The “Professional Identity” focus aims beyond academia, examining how these lessons affect real-world interactions—“to not just be academic beings, but beings who will eventually leave Loyola, take the Bar exam, and enter the profession,” says Kupe.
As the world grapples with COVID-19 disparities, police violence, Black Lives Matter protests, and increasingly public discussions about racism and inequality, Kupe stresses the importance of continuing these anti-racist efforts. The PIF program ensures that law students ask these questions at the outset of their legal careers. “It equips them to be aware of themselves in a more holistic way, so they understand how they can use their powers and privileges, how they can use their status,” Kupe says.
For their part, Loyola students dive into PIF classes discussing white privilege, historical oppression, anti-racist actions, and how all of these subjects shape them as students, legal professionals, and human beings. Some students even approach Kupe to ask if they can revisit the course questions in their last year. Kupe remembers one student’s comment in particular: “It was nice to have a human class. Not a law class.” –Megan Kirby