At the University of Minnesota, Lydia Negussie cultivated a passion for making the legal profession more diverse and attuned to the needs of diverse communities.

By Mila Koumpilova (Star Tribune) |

Lydia Negussie grew up in the family of Ethiopian immigrants who urged her younger brothers to avoid walking too fast or otherwise risk drawing suspicion on the street.

Partly, the advice echoed mistrust of East African authorities some immigrants carry over to their new homeland. But it also reflected a sense that few look out for working-class people of color in this country’s legal system.

“I see so many people in my community who fear the law is always stacked up against them,” said Lydia Negussie, now a senior at the University of Minnesota.

At the U, Lydia Negussie cultivated a passion for making the legal profession more diverse and attuned to the needs of diverse communities. She works as a mentor in a campus program that aims to steer more students of color and immigrant backgrounds to careers in the law. Already an accomplished researcher, she dreams of digging deeper into the ways race, gender and the legal system intersect. This winter, Lydia Negussie was among a group of students who won the U’s Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity, or SEED, award.

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“We want to make sure we recognize our students who help to advance diversity on campus and beyond,” said Shakeer Abdullah, the U’s assistant vice president for equity and diversity.

Lydia Negussie was 4 when her parents arrived in the United States; they eventually settled in the south metro suburbs. Her nursing assistant mother and airport worker father instilled in her a belief that growing up in the United States was a rare privilege. Although she never doubted that, with time she became more aware of disparities that affected her community.

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