Going Home Again: 3L Student Musah Abubaker’s Journey Back to Africa
3L Musah Abubaker’s inspiring journey from the United States to Botswana’s Ministry of Education has helped shape his career path.
Cincinnati, OH – “I was fortunate enough to come to the greatest country in the world, and I thought to myself, oh my gosh, finally: I’m able to escape,” recalled Musah Abubaker about his adventure to the United States nine years ago.
Abubakar, now a third-year student, arrived in the United States from Ghana on June 3, 2008. He spent his first few years in the U.S working in many different jobs, including some factories. In 2012, Abubakar went back to school to finish the economics degree he started in Ghana a few years earlier, completing his undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University. However, he was not totally satisfied, and the same ambition that led him to move to the US pushed him to continue his pursuit for grander opportunities.
“I did well in economics at OSU, but I still felt like at that point I couldn’t see myself or call myself an economist,” he said. “I know I’ve studied economics, but I thought about what I can do and be proud that it was my profession. It just kept coming back to me time and time again that I wanted to be a lawyer.”
Abubakar was cautious about the obstacles that would lie ahead. Living in a completely new country only a couple years, he was faced with many uncertainties. “I thought, ‘You are from Ghana with this accent going to law school. What are you going to do with that?’” he said about himself. “I knew that I wanted do it anyway. I knew becoming a lawyer is what I wanted to do. I believed that it was better to try doing what I loved to do and fail, than just run away from it because I had some insecurities.”
Abubakar determined to come to the College of Law and enrolled in Fall 2015. Soon after, he became a fellow with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. And he was eager for the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
“I really believe anyone who belongs to the law community should have a passion to make a difference,” said Abubakar. “If that desire is not there, anyone will be demoralized by the experience.”
Back to Africa
After completing his 1L year, Abubaker had the chance to extern abroad through Urban Morgan’s well-known international training program for students. He decided to return to the continent he left years earlier, to work at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development in Botswana.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development, a governmental organization in Botswana, provides guidance to decision makers and planners at all levels of government to improve the education sector in Botswana with the goal of developing an efficient education system. The Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan was approved in 2015, which allowed the Ministry to oversee the challenges facing the education system and propose various strategies, programs, and activities to adress these challenges over a five-year span. Abubakar was one of many who contributed to the facilitation of this plan by visiting schools, talking to teachers and students, and reviewing documents for his supervisors.
Abubakar takes pride the fact that he was one of many people able to shape the future of the country. “I got up every morning, knowing that the work that I’m doing at the Ministry is not just for some kind of self-gratification; it is something that is really needed,” he said. “People really appreciated it. I felt like I was really contributing to the development of this young country that just celebrated their 50th anniversary of independence last year. It was really rewarding, knowing that after one year of law school, the work I was doing made an impact on this country.”
You Can Go Home Again
Abubakar spent ten weeks at his externship in Botswana, all of which amounted to an unforgettable experience. Though the externship consumed most of his time in Africa, there was another destination on his agenda. Botswana is over 2,500 miles away from his home country of Ghana. The distance did not deter him from visiting his childhood home, however.
“Eight years. I hadn’t seen my brothers or my sisters until then,” he said. “The whole experience was very big for me, because it gave me the opportunity to meet with my family after eight years. That is not necessarily part of what I did at the Ministry of Education, but that, of course, was very important to me.”
As he traveled around Africa, he couldn’t help but see the potential in the youth. Abubakar knew that he was once just like them, and he knew his story could serve as an influence for those around him. “Sometimes I just wanted to see the rest of the country, and I enjoy interacting with ordinary people,” said Abubakar. “Sometimes I would go out with my friends and talk to the community. I met these kids and I thought they were quite interesting, you know, because I’m from Ghana.
“As soon as saw them, it came into my mind that I used to be just like these kids too. I used to run around, dress similar, act similar. I said, ‘Let me take a picture and maybe they can too be inspired by it.’ They were just random kids but I thought that could have easily been me 18 years ago.”
Abubakar’s life adventures reminds everyone around him that dreams are attainable. Though the pursuit of happiness may come with sacrifice, Abubakar’s story serves as a message of reassurance that hard work, dedication, and bravery can pay off in ways unimaginable.
The Future as a US Citizen
Abubakar took the step to become a US citizen. After completing this challenge, he sees more and more doors opening for his future in law.
“Lately I’ve been thinking about finding a job as a foreign service officer,” he said. “I believe my work in Botswana helped me to see that that type of job will probably be most suitable for me. If I hadn’t been there I probably wouldn’t have even had that realization.”
Abubakar remains thankful and appreciative of the experiences he has had in the US. He believes the externship, particularly, has completely changed his world-view. Looking toward the future, he feels closely tied to American values, and hopes to continue the fight for human rights and justice across the globe.
“It was important for me to study abroad,” said Abubakar. “I think going to Botswana opened doors for me that I couldn’t even have imagined. I’m able to imagine the world beyond Cincinnati, beyond the Untied States, and now I know that I can be of help and of service to people. That is one thing that I have found. I believe being there gives you a broad view of the world – at least broader than what I’ve imagined. So now that I am fully as American as possible, I want to find a job representing the interest of America.”
By: Kyler Davis, communication intern
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
Eden Thompson Recognized as Next Generation Leader by the American Constitution Society
Recent graduate Eden Thompson was chosen through a nationwide contest to be a Next Generation Leader by the ACS.
Cincinnati, OH- “I’ve always had an interest in the humanities, and helping people,” said Thompson. “I have just always had a general interest in the law.”
Eden Thompson, third-year College of Law student and president of UC’s chapter of the American Constitution society, was recently selected to be a Next Generation Leader by the American Constitution Society (ACS) national body. This selection will grant her unique networking opportunities, including future involvement in ACS sponsored events and other resources to facilitate her future in law. Thompson was one of the 28 students selected by the ACS national body.
“I got involved with ACS my first year, as a 1L representative. The next year I became secretary, and by the third year I was president,” said Thompson. “I applied for the Next Generation Leader program, which identifies upcoming law school graduates who have demonstrated special leadership in their work with the ACS student chapters.”
Initially studying political science and history at Miami University, Thompson’s love for law sparked in her undergraduate studies during her constitutional law class. Now, her acknowledgement by the ACS serves as a reminder to continue to raise important questions regarding constitutional interpretation to improve the lives of all people. With a clerkship lined up after graduation, her future already seems to be reaching new heights.
“This clerkship is my dream job to start out with,” said Thompson. “But my dream job has always been in litigation - either working for a law firm or getting a job in the federal government.”
As Next Generation Leader, Thompson plans to continue her involvement with ACS in networking with the national body to plan events, debates, and discussions along with her exclusive access to the many resources and large networking team available.
About the American Constitution Society
The American Constitution Society believes that law should be a force to improve the lives of all people. ACS works for positive change by shaping debate on vitally important legal and constitutional issues through development and promotion of high-impact ideas to opinion leaders and the media; by building networks of lawyers, law students, judges and policymakers dedicated to those ideas; and by countering the activist conservative legal movement that has sought to erode our enduring constitutional values. With over 200 student and lawyer chapters in 48 states, ACS offers a platform for discussion on the issues of the day, as well as provide opportunities for networking, mentoring, and organizing.
About The Next Generation Leader Program
In 2007, the American Constitution Society launched its Next Generation Leaders (NGL) program, which identifies and provides support to recent and forthcoming law school graduates who have demonstrated special leadership in their work with ACS’s student chapters, and who have the interest, skills and ability to remain vital members of the ACS community for years to come. NGL applicants undergo a competitive application process. Each year, 20-25 students are selected as NGLs, and one NGL is selected to serve a 2-year term as a student member of ACS’s Board.
By: Kyler Davis, communication intern
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
Connected: The Unique Ties of Cincinnati’s Mayoral Race
Forecasting election outcomes can be tricky business, but here’s one prediction guaranteed to come true: The next mayor of Cincinnati will have strong ties to UC Law.
That’s because among the three leading candidates in 2017’s mayoral race, two are UC Law graduates, and one cofounded a major UC Law initiative.
Incumbent John Cranley, who’s running for a second term as mayor, helped start the Ohio Innocence Project at UC Law in 2003, serving as administrative director until 2006. Candidate Yvette Simpson, currently in her second term as a city councilwoman, received her JD at UC in 2004. Former candidate Rob Richardson Jr., who recently completed a nine-year stint on UC’s Board of Trustees, graduated from UC Law in 2005.
Cranley, Richardson, and Simpson faced off in a primary election on May 2. The top two vote-getters—Cranley and Simpson—will now compete in the Nov. 7 general election.
Besides their UC Law connection, the three mayoral candidates shared many other things in common. They’re all lawyers, Democrats, and natives of Cincinnati. They also hold similar views on core civic issues, such as improving public transit, helping families get out of poverty, and partnering with regional institutions such as the University of Cincinnati. Yet each followed a unique path to UC Law, and eventually to this three-way race for mayor.
Going to UC might have seemed like a no-brainer for Richardson, whose parents, aunt, and sisters all attended the school. But his struggles with learning disabilities as a young student made the path to higher education seem less than certain.
“I wasn't a kid that naturally got school. I struggled pretty early on,” he recalled. “Because of that, and because I was probably bored by school, I didn't do as well taking the tests. That pretty much ruled out college for me.” One conversation with a teacher particularly discouraged Richardson as an eighth-grade student. “I told her I wanted to prepare for college. She told me, ‘Why? You’re not going to do that. You’re going to fail.’ That's a crushing conversation to have.”
Fortunately, Richardson’s mother countered his teacher’s message with these words of encouragement for her son: “People are going to have lower expectations of you. Some because you're an African American man, too. Don't let yourself be defined by anybody's narrow expectations. You define yourself for yourself, by yourself.”
Richardson eventually studied electrical engineering at UC, earning his B.S. degree in 2002. At that point, he knew he didn’t want to pursue a career as an engineer, though he had learned a great deal about solving problems. He decided law school was his next logical step, because “legal training teaches you how to identify problems, how to look at them from multiple sides,” he explained. “If you're going to be in public office, it helps to understand how policy, how the law works, and then you can change it.”
Soon after earning his JD, Richardson was appointed to the UC Board of Trustees, where he recently led the search for the 30th President, Dr. Neville Pinto, and advocated for systemic, top-down reforms to UC police policy following the killing of Samuel Dubose. Currently, he’s a marketing construction representative, and serves as Of Counsel with the law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, specializing in labor and employment and securities litigation
In his first run for political office, Richardson hoped to take a fresh approach to governing the city. “We know that the best ideas often come from the people and places that have been ignored by the power brokers in City Hall,” he said. “It’s our responsibility, as leaders in our city, to be stewards and partners in innovation, inclusion, and creativity.”
Simpson’s journey began at the age of eight, when she pulled a book from the library shelf. Of all the titles in the “when I grow up” series, she chose the one about growing up to be a lawyer. Pictured on the cover, she recalled, was a man arguing his case before a judge. “And I said: ‘That’s gonna be me, except I’ll be wearing a skirt.’”
Simpson’s grandmother and other mentors encouraged her to stick with her dream, even as the young girl’s family struggled to make ends meet and many friends and family members dropped out of school or fell prey to criminal activity. She ended up with a full scholarship to Miami University, where she became the first in her family to graduate from college.
She made her younger self “very proud” by earning her law degree at UC. As a student, Simpson co-chaired the Student Legal Education Committee, was an executive member of the Moot Court board (and was inducted to the Order of the Barristers), served on the honor council, was a senior articles editor for the Human Rights Quarterly, and worked as an associate with both Baker & Hostetler LLP and Frost Brown Todd LLC.
Having gotten “a taste of leadership and involvement” at UC, Simpson said, “I loved it.” Just a few years later, in 2011, she was elected to City Council. Now she hopes to become the first African-American woman mayor in the city's history.
The classic novel that inspired Cranley to become a lawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, centers around an attorney who helps free an innocent man. Years later, while working as a lawyer and serving on Cincinnati City Council, Cranley wanted to bring that kind of legal heroism to Cincinnati.
“I’d seen these Innocence Projects pop up in other states and I saw that there was none in Ohio and it would be great for UC,” Cranley said. He and his friend Professor Mark Godsey founded the Ohio Innocence Project at UC Law. Cranley ran the organization for its first few years. In one case, he successfully argued before the Ohio Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District to overturn Christopher Lee Bennett’s conviction of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Today, OIP is known as one of the most active and successful Innocence Projects in the world, and to date has secured the release of 25 individuals on grounds of innocence who together served more than 450 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
“It’s an amazing success story,” Cranley said. “There’s no question that it gets back to the tradition of wanting to see the world better and to deal with injustices and build a more just society.” He took office as mayor of Cincinnati in December 2013, and hopes to be re-elected for a second term this fall.
By: Susan Wenner Jackson
Published: June 1, 2017
KMK Attorneys Named Leaders in their Fields
The following KMK Law attorneys have been selected for inclusion as “Leaders in Their Fields” in the 2016 edition of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers.
Jim Burke, 1978
Joe Callow, 1993
Bob Coletti, 1982
Mike Scheier, 1991
Read the complete press release here.
Professor and Dean of Academic Affairs Bradford Mank was quoted in the article, "High Court Won’t Hear Dispute Challenging FDA Over J&J Drug."
Professor and Dean of Academic Affairs Bradford Mank was quoted in the blog, "When Third Parties Can Sue Government Remains Murky."
Professor Janet Moore was acknowledged as being in the top 10% of Authors on SSRN by total new downloads within the last 12 months
Professors and OIP Attorneys Donald Caster and Brian Howe's article, "Taking a Mulligan: The Special Challenges of Narrative Creation in the Post-Conviction Context" was published in print in 76 Md. L. Rev. 770 (2017).
Cincinnati Law Celebrates its 184th Hooding
Cincinnati Law celebrated the accomplishments of its graduates on May 13, 2017. Led by Interim Dean Verna Williams, 84 degrees were conferred, including 14 LLM degrees. Take a look at a few pictures from the ceremony and celebration.
A Message from Verna Williams, Interim Dean
As the College of Law’s Interim Dean, I’m focused on our future, which is bright. We continue to make strides in job placement, bar passage and making a difference. In fact, as I write this, we have just graduated a brand new class of lawyers, who leave us with experience helping local entrepreneurs and businesses, representing survivors of domestic violence, and freeing wrongly convicted persons—most recently Evin King, who served 23 years for a murder he didn’t commit.
This year’s admissions season is promising; applications were up and we are on our way to recruiting another crop of well credentialed and highly motivated students.
We remain Cincinnati proud and Cincinnati strong.
Thank you for your continued support of the College of Law. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.