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Thursday, September 16, 2021

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Charisma Nguepdo named Houston Law Review’s first African American editor in chief


Nguepdo plans to focus on inclusion and authentic engagement with the UH Law Center community as editor-in-chief of the Houston Law Review. | File Photo/The Cougar

Nguepdo plans to focus on inclusion and authentic engagement with the UH Law Center community as editor in chief of the Houston Law Review. | File Photo

Charisma Nguepdo, a second-year law student at the UH Law Center, has been named the first African American editor in chief of the Houston Law Review in the journal’s 58-year history.

“It means something to me to know that I’ve done something that the people who have come before me may have dreamt of doing, and the students who are coming after me can now dream of doing,” Nguepdo said. 

“I hope that other students, especially students of color, especially students who might come from a single-parent household or may have lived in public housing like I did, that they’ll know that they can do whatever they want to do.” 

Published by the UH Law Center, the Houston Law Review allows students to improve legal writing and research skills, as well as to explore new legal arguments. 

“I am very proud of the Houston Law Review for making an historic appointment of Charisma Nguepdo as its editor-in-chief,” said UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes in a statement. “Charisma is highly qualified for the position.” 

After reading the Brown v. Board of Education decision for a constitutional law class in high school, she knew that she wanted to be a lawyer like Thurgood Marshall, Nguepdo said. 

Nguepdo attended Pennsylvania State University, where she studied African American Studies and Criminology. 

But after learning more about the school-to-prison pipeline, she “detoured off into education” to help address those issues, Nguepdo said.

She received a master of science from Johns Hopkins University School of Education and taught for four years through Teach for America in Cleveland and at prep schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

But she realized that the factors contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline extended far beyond a classroom.  

“During my fourth year of teaching, I realized that these (school-to-prison pipeline) issues were much bigger than what I could control working in a school, and so I thought that I would take that time to go to law school,” Nguepdo said. 

Throughout her first year at the UH Law Center, Nguepdo “excelled” and spent the following summer as an associate at Locke Lord, Baynes said in the release. 

“I worked at Locke Lord this past summer, so I got to experience different types of work,” Nguepdo said. 

“Not necessarily education-based, but I was in a litigation group at Locke and so I got to participate in some projects related to some civil matters,” she added. “But I’m hoping to do some volunteer work or some pro-bono work related to education because I’m really passionate about educational equity.” 

Nguepdo was also elected president of the Black Law Students Association after her first year in the program. The organization aims to bring attention to the needs and goals of Black law students. 

In upcoming role as editor in chief, Nguepdo plans to focus on increasing the Houston Law Review’s engagement with the Law Center Community and to broaden the journal’s membership by widening accessibility and striving to represent the Law Center community’s diversity. 

“I want to break down that wall that students might feel between students that are on the Law Review and students that aren’t,” Nguepdo said. “My hope is that we can have more authentic engagement with other students by co-hosting events, co-hosting workshops … Or even just panels with different practitioners.” 

Nguepdo also wants to broaden the journal’s membership by widening accessibility and to reflect the Law Center’s diversity in the Houston Law Review participants. 

“I think that there’s often this misconception, especially about the Law Review, that you have to be a white student, or you have to be a family member or,  (have) multiple relatives who are attorneys or you have to have a ton of money. And none of those things are true for me,” Nguepdo said. 

“I want for more students of color to feel like they can apply for the Law Review and … To feel like they belong on the Law Review because they do. They earned their spot just like every other student and I want for them to understand that your thoughts, your opinions, your values, all of those things matter and they help to make the organization better.”

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to include the accurate number of years the Houston Law Review has been in operation. It was originally stated that the journal has operated for 56 years. The Cougar regrets this error. 

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