Driving diversity

Tania Luma brings a community-centered approach as DEI dean

Tania Luma, assistant dean for the School of Law’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion remembers a time when a title like hers didn’t exist. While attending the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law in 2008, Luma joined classmates advocating for an Office of Diversity.

The campaign succeeded, and, in a twist Luma couldn’t have predicted, she eventually returned to that same Office of Diversity as an assistant dean.

“For me, the law has always been a way to use my voice for others,” Luma says.

This perspective informs Luma’s approach to her position at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, which she started in July 2022. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion ensures that all members of the law school community feel valued and supported.

“Diversity is making sure that we invite as many people from as many different communities as possible into our school,” Luma says. “Making sure they are seen, heard, and treated fairly is equity. And ensuring they are an integral part of everything we do and are considered in everything we do—that’s inclusion.”

An early zeal for justice

As the daughter of a Haitian immigrant who came to the U.S. as a teenager, Luma grew up with an awareness of social inequities.

“I always saw the world from the perspective of those trying to make it and those who didn’t have status or power,” she says. “I just felt that having a voice mattered because that meant you could ask the world to consider you.”

Throughout Luma’s childhood in Queens, N.Y., and Toms River, N.J., she saw how these issues appeared on television, especially on investigative shows like 60 Minutes and 20/20. Luma was fascinated by the portrayals of people being cheated or taken advantage of and by the justice they received—or not. This interest in people’s stories led Luma to double major in broadcast journalism and sociology at the University of Maryland.

“I was thinking a lot about social issues that affected communities that looked like my own,” Luma says. “I wanted to uncover injustice and make an impact.”

But Luma started questioning her dream of becoming the next Barbara Walters due to what she calls “the Hollywood aspect” of broadcast journalism.

“There’s an entertainment element that’s not for me,” she says. “I felt like I needed to go another route.”

That route—law school—turned out to be the right one.

After earning her JD, Luma joined Cook County’s Child Protection Division, where she litigated on behalf of children experiencing abuse and neglect. Luma also sought other ways to give back in a professional capacity, including adjunct teaching at DePaul University and UIC Law.

She continued her own educational journey as well, working toward a certificate in public leadership from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

But higher education felt like home.

“I like working with teams and collaborating toward specific college goals,” she says. “It makes me happy.”

Learning and growing together

During her first few months at Loyola, Luma is spending time getting to know students, faculty, and other members of the community.

“Feedback has been very positive,” she says. “I’ve heard things that we could work on—and that’s to be expected—but overall, students are having great experiences here.”

“There’s a profound commitment to holding the law school accountable to these standards and values.”

As an example of the School of Law’s intentional engagement with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, Luma points to the recent revision of the school’s mission statement to be explicitly anti-racist.

“Not only were processes put into place to examine and rewrite the mission statement, but also, the school has continued to put people and resources into this, so we can carry out our mission in real time, every day,” she says. “There’s a profound commitment to holding the law school accountable to these standards and values.”

Luma acknowledges that DEI work is complicated and complex. But, she says, Loyola’s focus on social justice is a useful lens through which to view these efforts—and that makes Loyola different from other universities around the country.

“It’s not lip service here,” Luma says. “And I appreciate that there’s a sense of humility. Even when we don’t get it right, we’re willing to say that and do what we can to heal and grow. We’re learning and growing together.”

Setting up students for success

The School of Law’s fall 2021 incoming first-year class was its most diverse ever, with 37 percent being students of color. 

“We’ve grown in our diversity, and that’s a good thing,” Luma says. “But we need to make sure we offer the resources and support to ensure student success. That means making sure that our Black and Brown students, our first-generation students, our nonbinary students, and our marginalized and underrepresented students aren’t at the bottom of the class. We won’t just invite you here and then sit back. We are here to empower and equip you; we’re not going to set you up to fail.”

Luma plans to draw on her background in student support services to help strengthen resources for students and increase the touchpoints where students get the help they need. This could be enhanced mentorship opportunities, workshops and trainings, pipeline programs, and more.

“If you come here and you feel like you belong, that you matter, that people are looking out for you, that you’re heard and you’re seen—those are all the things we’re looking for when we do DEI work,” she says. “Additionally, we’re focused on creating practices, policies, and processes that are considerate and conscious of community at every level of decision-making.”

Luma is ready for the challenges. “I’ve always been the type of person to really focus and pour myself into my role,” she says. “I’m excited about collaborating with a great team that is invested in the same values that have guided my career so far.” –Kelsey Schagemann (September 2022)

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Loyola University Chicago School of Law is a student-focused law center inspired by the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, intellectual openness, and service to others.

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Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion fosters an exchange of ideas and shared experiences. Our goal is a simple one: for all members of our law school community to feel valued and supported.

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Loyola University Chicago School of Law is a student-focused law center inspired by the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, intellectual openness, and service to others.

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