Imelme Umana is the 24-year-old first generation Nigerian-American who is the first Black woman to serve as the president of Harvard Law Review; former president Barack Obama was the first Black President of the esteemed law publication.
Umana was raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania along with her four siblings. Her late father worked as a statistician. Having graduated from Harvard in 2014 with her first degree in African American studies and government, she is currently a doctoral candidate and should be earning a joint degree awarded from the Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
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The vetting process for the selection of her presidency involved a 12-hour deliberation of her portfolio as well as an intrusive check of her application and past experiences.
Her appointment as president was highlighted by outgoing President Michael L. Zuckerman; he stated: “For a field in which women and people of color have for too much of our past been marginalized or underrepresented, her election is an important and encouraging step toward a richer and more inclusive legal conversation.”
Umana is passionate about dispelling stereotypes commonly held about inner-city inhabitants who are predominantly people of color. This is evidenced by her internship with the public defender’s office in Washington, D.C. She speaks of her experiences with her appointment as HLR president and her practicum by explaining to Harvard Crimson, the school’s newspaper: “I didn’t realize [civics] could be so personal and so alive for a lot of the students,” “It taught me sensitivity in teaching but it also taught me, like the public defender’s service, to not assume certain backgrounds, certain reactions, certain lived experiences.”
The Harvard Law Review is run by students and comes out monthly from November to June. It entails 2,500 pages per volume and offers a unique opportunity for those part of the editorial team to hone their writing skills as well learning valuable tenets of America law. There are 90 staff members with faculty members serving as subject matter experts.
On January 29th of this year, Umana passed the torch to newly appointed HLR president, Michael Thomas. Thomas is the 132nd president and also of African-American descent.