Professor named 'Mentor of the Year' by Korean bar association

February 29, 2024 · By David Sandler
Robert Chang Award Reception 2024

Seattle University School of Law Professor Robert Chang was presented with the Mentor of the Year Award by the Korean American Bar Association (KABA) of Washington during its 33rd Annual Banquet at Benaroya Hall this month.

“I am so deeply honored and deeply humbled to receive this award,” Chang said during his acceptance remarks.

“I am delighted Bob has been recognized in this way because he merits this distinction. As one of the most gifted educators on our faculty, he has helped so many Seattle U Law students over the years, through his caring mentorship and guidance, achieve their full potential to become powerful advocates for justice,” said Dean Anthony E. Varona.

A large contingent of Seattle U Law students, faculty, and staff, including Dean Anthony E. Varona and Dean Emerita Annette Clark, were on hand to see Halley Cody, a third-year law student who has taken several courses taught by Chang, present the award to her mentor.

“Professor Chang seamlessly integrates mentoring and supporting others into his work: it is why he enjoys the work he does. He has mentored younger, up-and-coming law professors in their scholarship and supported their path to hiring and promotion, making the ranks of law faculty more diverse. He has mentored young lawyers seeking to do pro bono civil rights work,” Cody said.

“But, from my perspective,” she continued, “the most wide-reaching and impactful mentoring that he has done is in his decades of work teaching law students. Although Professor Chang has touched the lives of many students, for me as someone who is [also] Korean American, his mentorship has been especially meaningful.”

Chang, who is Korean American, serves as executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality.

Professor Chang KABA Award Graphic 2024

“The goal in the Korematsu Center, and especially in our Civil Rights Clinic, is to mentor students to foster their growth as advocates, who, when they get their degrees, are launched into the world to make change based on their vision of social justice,” Chang said.

Over the years, Chang has mentored dozens of students who have become leaders in law and staunch advocates for people and communities who have historically lacked voices in the judicial system.

“One of the guideposts in the Korematsu Center and how we work with students is to follow Charles Hamilton Houston, known as the architect of the legal strategy that led to the rejection of separate but equal in Brown,” he said. “Less known is that when he saw that there weren't enough Black lawyers to do the work with him in bringing about and sustaining this change, Houston became the dean of Howard Law School, where he worked to make a new generation of Black lawyers.”

Chang and the Korematsu Center name will move to the University of California Irvine School of Law beginning this summer. While accepting the award, he reflected on his tenure in Seattle.

“When I think about being here in this space for 16 years, I know and hope that being able to teach people like Halley, you never know the difference you’re going to make. I am excited about starting my next chapter at UCI Law, but sad to close my Washington state chapter,” he said.

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