Position: Assistant dean for the Minority Student Program, Rutgers School of Law–Newark
Length of service: Since July 2008
Helping hand: At the law school, Bravo-Weber is responsible for the Minority Student Program (MSP), a program that reflects the faculty’s longstanding commitment to promoting diversity and opportunity in the classroom and the legal profession. Disadvantaged students, regardless of race or ethnic origin, can find academic support, mentoring, and internships (called externships) through this program. Currently, 54 students in the day program and 24 in evening classes are enrolled in the MSP.
A New York state of mind: Bravo-Weber came to Rutgers from the New York University School of Law, where she was assistant dean for student affairs and community relations. Prior to joining NYU, she was director of the Education Division of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, deputy general counsel for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and a pro se legal clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She holds a J.D. from NYU Law School, a master’s degree in education from the Bank Street College of Education, and a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Farm school: Before attending law school, Bravo-Weber was an elementary school teacher for eight years at the Manhattan Country School in New York City, which had a farm outside the city where the teachers could take the students. She taught kindergarten and first grade. “I love working with students, no matter what the age,” she says.
An advocate, not an adversary: Throughout her life, Bravo-Weber has had a passion for civil rights issues, which is what led her to study law. She found she liked digging into research more than arguing before the bench. “I’m not very adversarial: I would rather try to bring people together,” she says. When she worked as a legal clerk handling pro se cases for the U.S. Court of Appeals, she enjoyed handling the cases of prisoners the best: “Some of them were really accomplished jailhouse lawyers.”
Full circle: Her return to a teaching environment at NYU enabled her to combine her love of teaching with law, a successful merger that she is continuing at Rutgers–Newark. Bravo-Weber says the Minority Student Program offers the most help to students during the first year of law school, and she hopes to institute more support programs throughout the entire three-year course of study. “I know that the first year of study is the most difficult for our students in the way of adjustment, but the support needs to continue until graduation,” she says. She is also on the hunt for more externships for MSP students, which allow them to gain law experience by working in such areas as the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, federal and state appellate and trial courts, the public defender’s office, and the National Labor Relations Board.
Reversing history: The MSP was established in 1968 when, after the urban rebellions in 1967, the Newark faculty voted to pursue an aggressive policy of equal opportunity for those who historically had been underrepresented in law schools and the legal profession. Since then, the law school has become a nationally recognized leader in increasing diversity in the profession. More than 2,300 students have participated in the MSP and graduated from the law school, including U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (Class of ‘79); Yvonne Smith Segars, New Jersey Public Defender (Class of ‘84); and Ronald K. Chen, New Jersey Public Advocate (Class of ‘83).
Inspiration begins at home: “My parents are my greatest inspiration,” Bravo-Weber says. Jose and Alicia Bravo came from Puerto Rico to New York after World War II during the 1940s. “They were very hard working with an appreciation for education and made sure their children were well educated,” she says.
A suitcase full of photos: A lover of museums and an art history buff, Bravo-Weber just took in the Philadelphia Museum of Arts’ exhibition on Cézanne. Her other hobby is scrapbooking. “I am the keeper of my family’s history. When my mother passed away, I inherited a suitcase full of photos. I didn’t want to leave them just packed up in there, so I have made it my project to sort and put them all into scrapbooks. It’s been quite a nostalgic journey.”