Campus News

Years in the making, Dillard and Brookhaven National Laboratories team up to create career pathways for students

Dante Butler, director of the Dillard University Pre-Law Program, speaks to a group of pre-law students. Photo: Sabree Hill/Dillard University.

Eddie Francis, efrancis@dillard.edu
April 27, 2022

For Leith Hill, the connection between Dillard University and Brookhaven National Laboratory could be considered years in the making. “I learned about Brookhaven National Lab in 1989 when I began dating John Hill, who later became my husband, and have been connected to Brookhaven Lab (through marriage and community) since then,” says Hill. 

After becoming a member of Dillard’s board of trustees in 2017, learning about the great work of the highly respected physics and pre-law programs, Hill saw the possibilities. A year later, Hill met Dr. Abdalla Darwish, presidential professor and professor of physics in 2018, she became more inspired, and contacted her husband right away. She later started having conversations with Adria Kimbrough, founder of the pre-law program and mock trial team coach. “(She) and Judge Kern Reese kept me posted on mock trial team competitions, and we had candid conversations about the opportunities and obstacles before our students,” Hill recalls. “The more I learned the more I dreamt.”

The dream is now a reality. Dillard has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Brookhaven Lab to provide summer internships for Dillard’s pre-law students in the laboratory’s legal department while providing coursework programming in government contracts. Dillard’s faculty will also have access to development on future science endeavors. The partnership includes exchange visits between Brookhaven Lab and Dillard faculty members and students to strengthen research outcomes that benefit both institutions. Brookhaven Lab will offer short courses at both the University and the laboratory to facilitate an exchange about the work each institution is doing. 

Brookhaven is a multidisciplinary laboratory that delivers discovery science and transformative technology to power and secure the nation’s future. The laboratory boasts seven Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, 37 R&D 100 Awards and more than 70 years of pioneering research.

Pre-law director Dante Butler will work on the internship program. “I am thankful for this opportunity for our pre-law students. I understand the value this internship will provide and the number of doors that will open up for our students because of this experience,” he says. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Eric Buckles, will facilitate the faculty development opportunities. 

Students will engage in a virtual internship from June 13 to August 12. They will work in different legal departments including government contracts, procurement, environmental law, intellectual property, labor relations and immigration. They will then be responsible for mini-projects dealing with contract agreements in each department; and at the end of the internship, the students will do presentations on their experience to the laboratory’s general counsel.

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop the MOU from happening. It stalled Hill’s plans, but it certainly did not stop them. Hill became, as she puts it, “pushy” about closing the deal. No less could be expected from the great niece of philanthropist and Dillard supporter, Rosa Keller.

With the MOU signed, Hill says that she believes the partnership will work, because she believes wholeheartedly in Dillard. But she also sees something bigger. “I love that Dillard is the ‘Jewel of Gentilly,’ but I would like to see Dillard be the Diamond of America!”