Oregon Law's Galen Distinguished Guest addresses issues of historically underrepresented groups

Nantiya Ruan

Professor Nantiya Ruan, Oregon Law’s 2021-22 Galen Distinguished Guest in Legal Writing, met with students, faculty, and administrators for a virtual visit on January 13, 2022. 

Ruan is a Professor of the Practice of Law at University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Director of their Workplace Law Program, and of counsel at Outten & Golden, LLC. She teaches and writes in the areas of lawyering process, workplace law, poverty, race, and homelessness. Her influential scholarship, policy reports, and practice publications have had far-reaching impacts. In 2021, Ruan was awarded the Association of Legal Writing Directors’ inaugural Diversity Award for her significant contributions to improving the status of historically underrepresented and underserved groups.

Faculty Colloquium Presentation

During her visit, Ruan presented a scholarly work-in-progress, Racial Pay Equity in “White” Collar Workplaces, to faculty and administrators. The paper submits that, while significant headway has been made regarding gender pay equity, not enough has been done to address the racial pay gap. Specifically, Ruan analyzes the financial services industry through two critical lenses: equal pay and equal opportunity. Her paper identifies six distinct challenges fueling racial pay inequities in the industry. She then examines past structural reform attempts and assesses their efficacy and recommends six interventions corporations can adopt to make racial pay equity a lasting reality.

“Professor Ruan is doing incredibly important work as a scholar and as a lawyer in the area of racial pay equity,” said Associate Dean Jennifer Reynolds, who moderated the event. “As a scholar, she explains how historical and ideological structures have created the racial pay gap in workplaces today; as a lawyer, she sets forth strategies for addressing these complex issues inside and outside the courts.”

Student Roundtables

In addition to her faculty presentation, Ruan met with two groups of students during her visit. She first met with law students of Asian/Pacific Islander heritage to talk about her career journey. She shared how her father, a Thai immigrant living in extreme poverty, moved to the United States for greater opportunities. She explained how her family culture and experiences as a child of an immigrant helped her succeed as a law student and attorney, and how they helped shape her passion for public service.

Ruan invited students to begin the process of developing their passions by identifying gaps in the law that have real impacts on people’s lives. She encouraged students to be attuned to unexpected, career-defining opportunities that can come out of relationships they’re building now. “Doors open, you don’t know when they’re going to, and it’s your responsibility to walk through them. Whoever you meet, there’s usually an opportunity there.”

Kiali Wong, a first-year law student attending the discussion was moved by the exchange. “Every minute with Professor Ruan was inspiring. She spoke with candor about her work as a lawyer and scholar, and shared practical advice for how students can develop an efficient writing process. She told us to find ‘gaps in the law,’ topics we’re passionate about, and to channel that passion into writing effective advocacy.”

Later, Ruan met with a group of students interested in homelessness/housing issues and public interest careers. She introduced students to the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an organization focused on homelessness advocacy policy work throughout the Western States. She specifically discussed her Homeless Advocacy Policy Project, a student-driven project at University of Denver Sturm College of Law focused on researching the laws criminalizing homelessness and on homeless rights advocacy. She challenged students to consider their impact as law students, emphasizing that students don’t need to wait to become licensed attorneys to effectively advocate for change.

“What I say to law students is this: you have more power and agency than you think. You can do important work through directed research projects, by talking with faculty about doing a one-off class, or through an internship. We don’t just have litigation as a tool, we also have policy advocacy as a tool. Whether through op-eds, blog posts, or an in-depth policy report through an academic institution, that sort of advocacy can be really meaningful.”  

After attending the roundtable, second-year law student Ellen McKean felt motivated to help her community. “Professor Ruan encouraged us to think about how we, as law students, can help enact change by writing about legal and policy issues that impact our community. Her insight and professional advice inspired me to think about how I can be an advocate and leader in my community, even before I pass the bar.”

Professor Elizabeth Ruiz Frost praised Ruan for sharing her insights, experiences, and expertise with Oregon Law students during the visit. “Professor Ruan’s visit to Oregon Law provided law students an important opportunity to talk with a professor who still practices and writes about issues that really matter to her. The students were inspired by her discussion about the many avenues they have ahead of them to advocate for change.”

About the Galen Distinguished Guest in Legal Writing

Professor Ruan joins Oregon Law’s distinguished list of past Galen Distinguished Guests: Professor Melissa Weresh, Professor Mary Beth Beazley, Deputy Solicitor General Anne Egeler, Professor Leslie Culver, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth, and Associate Dean Michael Higdon. 

University of Oregon’s Galen Distinguished Guest in Legal Writing series is due to generous support from our donors, particularly alumnus Morris Galen ‘50. Visit the LRW website to learn more about The Galen Endowment for the Advancement of Legal Writing and its impact on legal writing education at Oregon Law.