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Meet Dehlia Umunna, the first Nigerian to be appointed as a professor at Harvard Law School

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Dehlia Umunna, deputy director and clinical instructor at Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute, is the first Nigerian to be appointed as a professor at Harvard School of Law.

According to the publication Harvard Law Today, 43-year-old Dehlia Umunna, the first Nigerian to be appointed as a professor in Harvard School of Law (HSL), has been a lecturer at Harvard Law School since 2007. She is the author of the article “Rethinking the Neighbourhood Watch: How Lessons from the Nigerian Village Can Creatively Empower the Community to Assist Poor, Single Mothers in America”, which was published in the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law.

Umunna is the deputy director and clinical instructor at Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), through which she supervises third-year law students in criminal and juvenile proceedings and arguments before Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court.

Furthermore, she is a board member of the District of Columbia Law Students Law Clinic, serves as a faculty member for Gideon’s Promise (formerly the Southern Public Defender’s Training Centre) and is a frequent presenter at Public Defender training sessions across the country.

Speaking on her appointment, Umunna said, “I am blessed and honoured to join Harvard Law School’s remarkable faculty. I relish this extraordinary opportunity to continue work that I am truly passionate about, and I am grateful for the deep interest and commitment of the school to issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, indigent defence and social justice.”

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Umunna holds a Law degree from the George Washington University Law Centre, a Master’s in Public Administration (MC) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a BA in Communications from California State University, San Bernardino. From 2002 to 2007, Professor Umunna was an Adjunct Professor of Law and Practitioner in Residence at American University, Washington College of Law.

Her teaching interest and research focus on Criminal Law, Criminal Defence and Theory, Mass Incarceration and Race Issues. In recognition of her outstanding service to the HLS community she has received Harvard Law School’s Dean’s Award for Excellence and the Southern Public Defender Training Centre Outstanding Faculty Mentor of the Year Award. The awards acknowledged her as a stellar student supervisor, staff manager, lecturer, coach and mentor.

Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School, said, “Dehlia’s students revere her. Her colleagues at HLS and nationally look to her as an exemplary advocate, teacher and mentor.

“From her unprecedented win record in criminal defence trials, her deft leadership of the Criminal Justice Institute day to day, and her superb coaching of student moot court teams, her published scholarship, to her numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding work as a criminal defence attorney, advisor, and teacher, Dehlia is simply extraordinary. She is an inspiration to her students and her clients in every way. It is a true privilege to be her colleague.”

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