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Law school honors 2021 students for scholarship, leadership and service

Wed, 05/19/2021

LAWRENCE – Eleven University of Kansas School of Law students received awards in spring 2021 for distinguishing themselves in scholarship, leadership and service to the law school and the community.

The recipients:

  • Jacob Barefield, Martinez, Georgia: Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership
  • Ellen Bertels, Overland Park: Walter Hiersteiner Outstanding Service Award
  • Sydney Buckley, Kansas City, Missouri: Faculty Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement
  • Cortez Downey, Edmond, Oklahoma: Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership
  • Marisol Garcia, Wichita: Robert F. Bennett Student Award
  • Aidan Graybill, Scottsdale, Arizona: Janean Meigs Memorial Award in Law
  • Delaney Hiegert, Topeka: Samuel Mellinger Scholarship, Leadership, and Service Award
  • Jared Jevons, Manhattan: Justice Lloyd Kagey Leadership Award
  • Zachary Kelsay, Independence, Missouri: Justice Lloyd Kagey Leadership Award
  • Cori Moffett, Kansas City, Missouri: Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership
  • Bria Nelson, Woodstock, Illinois: The Dru Mort Sampson Center for Diversity & Inclusion Award of Distinction

Howard Mahan, of Fredonia, was selected to serve as the 2021 banner carrier, an honor bestowed upon a student who exemplifies excellence in their program.

The award winners were part of a class composed of 98 recipients of the juris doctor as well as two Master of Laws in American Legal Studies and one Doctor of Juridical Science graduate. Fifteen students graduated from the Master of Science in Homeland Security: Law & Policy program.

Funds for the awards are managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Student award recipients are listed below alphabetically.

Jacob Barefield, of Martinez, Georgia, received the Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership for the 1L class. The award is given annually to students who, in the opinion of the faculty, contributed most significantly to the overall experience of students in Green Hall. Barefield is known for being exceptionally supportive of other students and fostering a collegial atmosphere for first-year law students. Barefield is a leader in the law school who has demonstrated a caring spirit and shown dedication to the larger community. This summer, he will intern with Enoch Tarver Law Firm in Augusta, Georgia. Barefield is a member of Women in Law. Barefield is the son of Tracy Barefield and the late Mickey Barefield. He is a graduate of Evans High School and Georgia Southern University.

Ellen BertelsEllen Bertels, of Overland Park, received the Walter Hiersteiner Outstanding Service Award, which is given to the student whose service to their fellow students in the law school and to the university community demonstrates the greatest promise for contribution to the legal profession and to society. Bertels co-founded the Gender Marker and Name Change Project at KU with classmate Delaney Hiegert in 2019. The GMNC Project, operating within the KU Legal Aid Clinic at Green Hall, provides pro bono legal representation for transgender and nonbinary individuals as they seek affirming gender marker and name changes in Kansas. Bertels also was a finalist in two national writing competitions for scholarship about topics affecting the LGBTQ community. Bertels was the president of the Public Interest Law Society, vice president of KU’s chapter of the American Constitution Society, comments editor for the Kansas Law Review, a student ambassador and a member of the Moot Court Council. She earned Pro Bono Distinction at graduation for completing more than 50 hours of unpaid legal service during law school. Bertels is the daughter of Elizabeth and Mark Bertels. She graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School and KU.

Sydney BuckleySydney Buckley, of Kansas City, Missouri, received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement, which is given to the graduating student selected by the faculty as having made the most significant contribution toward overall legal scholarship. Buckley served as president of Christian Legal Society and articles editor for the Kansas Law Review, where her own article, “Getting SLAPP Happy: Why the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas Should Adopt the Ninth Circuit’s Approach When Applying the Kansas Anti-SLAPP Law,” was published. Buckley co-wrote two articles with Michael Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law. She also worked on research and scholarship with Stephen Ware, Frank Edwards Tyler Distinguished Professor of Law, and Thomas Stacy, professor of law. Buckley was also a member of the Moot Court Council, a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar, student ambassador and legal intern for the Judicial Field Placement Program. Buckley is the daughter of Mitzi and Brad Buckley. She graduated from Bishop Miege High School and Fairfield University.

Cortez DowneyCortez Downey, of Edmond, Oklahoma, received the Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership for the 2L class. The award is given annually to students who, in the opinion of the faculty, contributed most significantly to the overall experience of students in Green Hall. Downey served as president of the Black Law Students Association and president of the school’s Student Ambassadors. He is a member of the Intellectual Property Law Students Association and Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council. Downey was a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar and a legal intern for the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic and Mediation Clinic. Downey is the son of Teaver and Cartius Downey. He graduated from Edmond Santa Fe High School and Oklahoma State University.

Marisol GarciaMarisol Garcia, of Wichita, received the Robert F. Bennett Student Award, which is given to a graduate whose undergraduate degree is from a Kansas university or college and who has demonstrated leadership qualities through public service. Garcia displayed top-notch leadership, a caring spirit and a willingness to help others throughout her time in law school. Garcia served as president of First-Generation Professionals and was a member of OUTLaws & Allies, Hispanic American Law Students Association and competed in the Wagner National Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Competition. Garcia is the daughter of Martina and Baltazar Garcia. She graduated from Northeast Magnet High School and Kansas State University.

Aidan GraybillAidan Graybill, of Scottsdale, Arizona, received the Janean Meigs Memorial Award in Law, which is given to a student who has demonstrated a caring spirit in service to the students of the law school or to the community at large. Graybill served on the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) Board as the Area 3 representative and co-chair of the organization’s advocacy committee. Graybill also served as president of KU’s Native American Law Students Association and competed in the NNALSA moot court competition twice. Graybill served as president of the Mindfulness in Law Society, ABA representative for the Student Bar Association and treasurer for Women in Law. She was also a member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council, Public Interest Law Society and American Constitution Society. She also gained legal experience through the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic and the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement Program. Graybill is the daughter of Jolie and Patrick Graybill. She graduated from Lincoln Southeast High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Delaney HiegertDelaney Hiegert, of Topeka, received the Samuel Mellinger Scholarship, Leadership, and Service Award, which is given to the student who has most distinguished themselves in the combined areas of scholarship, leadership and service. Hiegert co-founded the Gender Marker and Name Change Project at KU with classmate Ellen Bertels in 2019. The GMNC Project, operating within the KU Legal Aid Clinic at Green Hall, provides pro bono legal representation for transgender and nonbinary individuals as they seek affirming gender marker and name changes in Kansas. Hiegert served as president of OUTLaws & Allies and participated in the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council, the American Constitution Society and the undergraduate ACLU of KU student organization. They were also a staff articles editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy and participated in the school’s 6th Semester in D.C. program. They earned Pro Bono Distinction at graduation for completing more than 50 hours of unpaid legal service during law school. Hiegert’s parents are Jill and Wayne Hiegert. They graduated from Seaman High School and Newman University.

Jared JevonsJared Jevons, of Manhattan, received the Justice Lloyd Kagey Leadership Award, which is given to the graduate who has most distinguished themselves through leadership in the law school. Jevons is a strong leader demonstrating compassion and thoughtfulness. Jevons served as editor-in-chief of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, represented the law school as a student ambassador and mentored first-year law students as a Dean’s Fellow. He is deeply committed to the law school and has shown leadership in numerous organizations as president of the Military Law Society and as a member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council. Jevons’ article describing how his Navy experience related to his law school experience was published in the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, “Taking Navy Skills from the Cockpit to the Classroom.” Jevons is the son of Virginia and Keith Jevons. He graduated from Manhattan High School and KU.

Zachary KelsayZachary Kelsay, of Independence, Missouri, received the Justice Lloyd Kagey Leadership Award, which is given to the graduate who has most distinguished themselves through leadership in the law school. Kelsay and classmate Emily Depew won the top prize at the 2021 NNALSA Moot Court Competition. In 2020, Kelsay and teammate Karen Fritts, L’21, won the first-place award for Best Overall Advocates and placed in the top three teams overall at the NNALSA competition. He served as a staff articles editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy and participated in Mock Trial Council, Student Bar Association, Dean’s Fellows and Black Law Students Association. Kelsay was a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar and participated in the Legal Education Accelerated Degree Program. Kelsay is the son of Darlene Kelsay and Brian Kelsay. He graduated from Blue Springs South High School and KU.

Cori MoffettCori Moffett, of Kansas City, Missouri, received the Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership for the 3L class. The award is given annually to students who, in the opinion of the faculty, contributed most significantly to the overall experience of students in Green Hall. Moffett served as Head Dean’s Fellow, vice president of Women in Law and a research assistant for Raj Bhala, Brenneisen Distinguished Professor of Law. She also participated in the ACLU of Kansas’ Clemency Project, advocating for the release of Kansas prisoners who are medically vulnerable or have completed most of their sentence. She earned Pro Bono Distinction at graduation for completing more than 50 hours of unpaid legal service during law school. Moffett is the daughter of Marcey Moffett. She graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School and Kansas State University.

Bria NelsonBria Nelson, of Woodstock, Illinois, received the inaugural Dru Mort Sampson Center for Diversity & Inclusion Award of Distinction, which is given to the student who, in the opinion of the faculty, has exhibited exemplary leadership and a commitment to promoting diversity and belonging – both in Green Hall and in the law school’s broader communities. Nelson served as president of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council, treasurer of Black Law Students Association, a campus student representative for Equal Justice Works, a student ambassador and class vice president for Student Bar Association. They also participated in the ACLU of Kansas’ Clemency Project, the Mediation Clinic, OUTLaws & Allies and the undergraduate ACLU of KU student organization. Nelson also participated in the school’s 6th Semester in D.C. program. They earned Pro Bono Distinction at graduation for completing more than 50 hours of unpaid legal service during law school. Nelson’s parent is Stephanie Davis. They graduated from Harvard High School and Iowa State University.



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