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Dean Belinda Dantley Honored for Her Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Work

Belinda Dantley (’13), the assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at Saint Louis University School of Law joined the faculty in 2019. This year, in recognition of her passion and dedication for her role, Dean Dantley was honored with a Missouri Lawyers Weekly Diversity and Inclusion Award. We asked Dean Dantley about her experience and her goals for her role and the institution.  

SLU LAW: What is your personal mission as the Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? 

Dean Dantley: In my position, I am a part of the solution when it comes to helping the legal profession better reflect the society that we live in and the society that we want to live in. I love my alma mater and I love the legal profession. I love them both enough to want them to be better. Better for prospective and current law students, as well as those well into their legal careers.  

Belinda Dantley with the honoree at the BLSA Judicial Reception

Dean Dantley (right) alongside Judge Sandra Farragut-Hemphill at a reception at Scott Hall. 

SLU LAW: What is your process when you approach your work?

Dean Dantley: I try to think of all the little pieces and steps at once while being intentional with who we are working with. I work with younger students to help them enter the pipeline of the legal profession, and with current students who are at law school now, and I help people who have been in the legal profession, because they are the ones who can make the change. I educate myself as much as possible so that when I’m speaking with people, it comes across as “I have done the research so that you can put it into practice.”

When it comes to helping other faculty, I approach it from the lens of: Well, what did baby Belinda need? As in, what did I need as a student? What did I need from my faculty members? What did I wish I had learned about? In that way, I can make sure the faculty can offer that to our current students. 

SLU LAW: What are some memories of successful events involving DEI?

Dean Dantley: When it comes to seeing things that work, it is always when a large group of people come together towards a similar goal. With something as simple as our Friendsgiving event, our students are coming together and saying, “I want to bring you into my world, my culture, and my understanding.” When we collaborate with different organizations here or other law firms, we reaffirm that DEI work should not just be happening in the law school, and it’s not just me. It’s a really positive feeling when other people take on the mission. 

SLU LAW: Why do you think it’s important to have a DEI Office at the School of Law?

Dean Dantley: Lawyers are the ones that create the laws of our society. We determine what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Making sure that there are concerted efforts to analyze, critique, reimagine and create a culture of change is what a DEI office can offer a law school. This will help future lawyers create the change they want to see in the world. To help our society see a better future with the rules we decide will govern us a people. 

SLU LAW: What upcoming programs do you look forward to?

Dean Dantley: I’m looking forward to continuing the process of demystifying the legal profession. I love our Accessing the Legal Profession (ALP) Admissions Application program because it demystifies the law school application process. I also love the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Employer Showcase we put on because it demystifies what opportunities are out there that employers have for our students. And our first-generation program series. For whatever reason, our culture has this theme of elitism, and I don’t want that to be the case. No one should hoard information, or only share it with a select few. I want everyone to have as much information as they can possibly have.

SLU LAW: What makes you excited to come to work? 

Dean Dantley: I’m excited about working with people who are actively looking for a problem to solve. People who are seeking out how to fix a problem, and how to make things better for someone else. Even if it has nothing to do with who they are or where they stand, I’m honored to work with people who just want to make sure others are okay. 

SLU LAW: What does this award mean to you? 

Dean Dantley: Highlighting the work that we do doesn’t just make SLU LAW better, but it makes the legal profession and the society better. I think highlighting this work could show other organizations what they can also do. Like I said, I’m not about hoarding information. If I see one law firm doing amazing things, I want to tell other law firms about it! I think the power of awareness is what makes that happen. 

This is not just one office or one person, this is the work of many. Luckily, it’s not a barrier for us to put on events or programs, because DEI is well-celebrated at SLU LAW. 

SLU LAW: What advice for people who are interested getting started in DEI?

Dean Dantley: No matter what level you are at, it’s about educating yourself. The knowledge is out there, these concepts aren’t new. If anyone is eager to do this work, the information is out there for you.