Inauguration: Panelists Talk Leadership, Vision, and Change in Panel Discussion

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As part of the Inauguration celebration for Albany Law School’s 19th President and Dean Cinnamon P. Carlarne, a panel of distinguished leaders gathered for a discussion on leadership.

 “Visions of Leadership: The Moments & Voices that Drive Change” brought together leaders who have effected transformative change at the intersection of the rule of law, equity, and justice.

The panel was moderated by Dean Carlarne, who fostered the conversation with the leaders about how they have embraced leadership roles, how their notions of leadership have evolved, and what they see as some of the greatest challenges and opportunities facing future lawyers and leaders:

Panelists included:

Maxine Burkett
Professor of Law, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

Robert L. Capers ’96
Chief United States Probation Officer for the Eastern District of New York

Kathy Seward Northern
Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence, Jones Day/Robert M. Duncan Designated Associate Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

The discussion covered a range of topics from dealing with hierarchies, reflecting on mentors who have shaped each of them, and offering advice to law students and early career legal professionals.

Each panelist was also asked to reflect on what leadership means to them.

Dean Carlarne: “Albany Law alumni serve in critical leadership roles across all aspects of our society. But being a leader is not just something that happens by virtue of being a lawyer, even an Albany Law lawyer. It's something that we really must create space and opportunity for that we must nurture and that we should constantly be interrogating in terms of what it means to be a good leader in this particular moment in which we live. And that's our goal here today, to explore what leadership means, how leaders evolve, and how we can individually and collectively do more to create space and opportunity and mentorship for our next generation of lawyers and leaders What does leadership mean to you?”

Kathy Seward Northern:
“I think my concept of leadership, especially in the context of an educational field, it's really a servant leader. I'm there. We are training individuals to go out and be of service to the community, to the profession, to the country. And I think you really have to think about what that means. Different leaders may have different goals, but when you're in a position like that in education, it's really about serving the students that you have, the broader community that they'll go out into, and of course your colleagues, your faculty and staff. And so for me that means asking questions of yourself. First one, why is it that I should be in this position of leadership?

What is it that I can bring to the enterprise that will benefit the institution that I'm working for? So, answering for yourself kind of that “why” question. Then the answer to that question I think has to be tailored to the nature of the enterprise that you're engaged in. And the why has to be one that you can kind of use as your north star, as you go through a lot of unexpected things that can happen over the course of a day or of a year or of your career.”

Robert L. Capers ’96:
“Leadership to me means not only more important than developing myself, particularly in the service space. When you commit to serving for a lifetime, you serve something that's greater than yourself. And I serve within the criminal justice system. And so, it is recognizing where I stand in that system. I am as an African-American male in a system that has proliferated the mass incarceration of African-American men and people of color. It is important to be transparent and an honest broker and appearing and acting in a way that kind of puts you above the fray, right? It is kind of recognizing where you stand in every space. And when I came out of law school, I thought that meant one thing, how you dress, how you carry yourself, how you everything else. But as I evolved in this space, I realized how weighty the position was.
I waited my turn to become a leader in that space. Law enforcement is different than other spaces. It's very regimented. And I was raised in a system where you toil away in the vineyard until somebody taps you and says, it's your time. And Mary is shaking her head because she kind of came up in that same system in the DA's office. I had an opportunity to see those before me lead and some of them not lead very well. And it was trying to make an effort to be the counter to those people who were not leading well. And as I evolved in this space and became a supervisor in the U.S. Attorney's office and began to teach people the philosophy behind what we do and how we do it, I had to be able to not only present the example, but give people the space too, once they had those expectations, to grow in that space and not be so overbearing.”

Maxine Burkett:
“When I think about any sort of assessment of leadership, I'm thinking about am I good? Everything from self-care to ensuring that you're managing your energy to ensuring your students aren't burning out, are okay, and that they understand that they can ask that question first in order to be effective. And then also understanding what one has to offer uniquely. And for me in this space, for example, environmental justice and climate justice, a lot of what I think I was able to contribute was making connections and then bridging communities. And so, describing that as an example for students for example, would be what are the ways that we're maybe not seeing how various problems actually share some component elements? When I was younger, I was talking a lot about what led to prison pipelines, what is the state of our community? How are we setting our children up for success or failure?
And making that connection was a slightly different way to think about it, but I think that was an important contribution. Also at the time in the eighties and nineties especially, I was a rabble rouser, really young, and certainly by high school trying to make the argument that where I grew up in Queens was also an environment. Then make that argument to large environmental organizations and to colleges that had very stellar environmental programs that didn't seem to understand that there were urban environments as well. And so speaking to various communities to say we have shared concerns. And so that was one way that I thought, okay, this is the contribution I can make.”



Inauguration of 19th President and Dean Cinnamon P. Carlarne