Amber Dean ‘23 and Monica Gibbons ’22 are the winners of the 2022 Skye Donald Spirit of Community Award, the highest recognition for student service to UCLA Law. Their recognition was announced this week by Bayrex Martí, the assistant dean for student affairs, in a message to the community.
This is the fifth year the law school has presented this award, which recognizes one or more students who demonstrate integrity, generosity, and a focus on the wellbeing of the law school community. Recipients embody Skye Donald’s values of service and compassion and enhance the UCLA Law experience for our entire community.
Both of the 2022 honorees received multiple glowing nominations from a broad cross-section of the community, reflecting the sheer number of activities and commitments each engages in.
Dean serves as a co-chair for the Black Law Students Association, for which she played a leadership role in producing the organization’s gala this past weekend. She is also a member of the school’s top-ranked A. Barry Cappello Trial Team and has competed in numerous high-profile tournaments. In addition to her academic load and extracurricular commitments, Dean has externed this semester at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Hearings Unit. She is a past recipient the Erika J. Glazer Endowed Scholarship at UCLA Law, which supports first-year law students who are dedicated to achieving equity for Los Angeles’ Black communities. This summer, she will work as an associate at Michelman & Robinson, LLP in the employment department of their Los Angeles office.
In nominating Dean for the Skye Donald Award, her peers noted her public activism as well as her attention to the needs of others in private moments. Nominators credited her work with BLSA to ensure that the organization’s membership was “uplifted, resourced, and happy.” She was also held up as an example of a student who inspires and supports others in spite of taking on a multitude of extracurricular activities, such as her involvement with trial advocacy.
"I am so thankful for the people who have come before me” says Dean. “Their hard work and dedication has given me the opportunity to pursue my dreams. I am forever grateful for them because they have inspired me to do whatever is in my power to help others realize their dreams."
Gibbons is a student in the Epstein Program for Public Interest Law and Policy and is the Critical Race Studies Program. She was a discourse editor for the UCLA Law Review for Volume 69, a staff Editor for Volume 68, and a Research Assistant for Prof. Jerry Kang. She participated in the VAWA U-Visa El Centro Clinic and the Labor and Economic Justice El Centro Clinic, working on unemployment insurance at the beginning of the pandemic. Gibbons is also an active member of OUTLaw and, last summer, worked with the Wage Protection Program at Legal Aid at Work, a worker's rights organization in San Francisco. She is also known for her commitment to work-life balance, which includes relaxing in the Shapiro Courtyard or going to the beach with law school friends, as well as going out dancing, reading contemporary novels, and playing guitar.
That commitment to the social aspect of law school, as well her rigorous academic pursuits, led one nominator to say “Monica allows people to trust her and feel secure in her presence.” Throughout the pandemic, Gibbons gained a reputation as someone who would take the time to check in on classmates, and to help new students, whether 1Ls, transfers, LLMs, or MLS students, feel welcomed to the UCLA Law community.
Gibbons thinks she’s the one who should offer thanks. “My classmates at UCLA create such a warm and supportive community” says Gibbons. “I came into law school expecting to learn a few things and leave; I did not expect that UCLA Law would feel like home. I am really proud of the collaborative community we built together, where we were able to share our wins and losses together and support each other through it. I hope UCLA continues to be a special place for the law students, while also hoping the law school will find ways to better support students in times of crisis.”
Next year, Gibbons will clerk for Judge Salvador Mendoza Jr. '97, who currently sits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. Earlier this month, Judge Mendoza was nominated by Pres. Biden to the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. If Mendoza is confirmed, Gibbons will clerk for him there.
“Every year, it is a pleasure to read the nominations for this award,” says Dean Martí. “We have so many amazing students do so many amazing things for our community. It speaks to how exceptional Amber and Monica are that they could stand out in that collection of amazing nominees. I congratulate them and all who were nominated, and I thank all who submitted nominations.”
The Skye Donald Spirit of Community Award honors the memory of UCLA Law lecturer Skye Donald, a teacher and lawyer who was admired for bringing out the best in her students and colleagues before she succumbed to cancer in 2016, at age 43. The award and associated Skye Donald Memorial Fund foster continued collegiality, compassion, and service, in order to enhance the UCLA Law experience for award recipients and the entire community. Students who win the award each receive a scholarship of $1000.