Nicia Bottini Morales (she/they) received an email out of the blue one late-summer day—and it changed her life. She had been named the inaugural recipient of the Professor Teresa A. Miller Memorial Scholarship, which covers full tuition for three years at UB School of Law.
“It was a complete shock to me,” says Bottini Morales, who’s studying for a dual JD/MSW degree. “But not having to pay tuition for these next three years is really helpful. My passion is in public interest, and having less debt gives me the flexibility to choose something I deeply care about.”
The scholarship honors Professor Miller, who died last year after a distinguished career as a UB Law faculty member—specializing in immigration law, criminal procedure, and prisoners’ rights—and with the State University of New York system, where she led SUNY’s efforts to advance equity, diversity and inclusivity. The award gives preference to talented students from underrepresented minority groups with the desire to champion social justice and civil rights.
“Nicia was selected as the inaugural Professor Teresa A. Miller Memorial Scholar for her academic excellence, demonstrated leadership abilities, and commitment to advocating for marginalized individuals,” says Lindsay Gladney, vice dean for admissions. “Her experiences, character and ambitions embody the spirit of the scholarship.”
Gladney points to Bottini Morales’ extracurricular efforts as an American University undergraduate majoring in both women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and law and society. At the Washington, D.C., school, they led workshops as a peer health educator, and studied abroad in Kenya, looking at regional conflict, language, and culture.
For Bottini Morales, the scholarship recognition is another achievement as they work toward a career in legal advocacy—maybe in family law, maybe in education law.
Help honor Prof. Teri Miller’s legacy with a donation to the Professor Teresa A. Miller Memorial Scholarship Fund.
For information, contact Vice Dean Karen Kaczmarski, vice dean and senior director for advancement at 716-645-6429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I wanted to stay grounded in what I cared about,” she says about the choice to return home to Buffalo for law school. “After the first year of law school, I could really tailor the curriculum to what I want to do,” she says. “So, I’ll be able to tie together my interest in education and advocacy and make the curriculum what I want it to be.”
Most important to her is critically examining the role of law in society, particularly how it affects those on the margins. “I’m interested in working with communities and thinking about the ways different laws impact people,” they say. “It was important to get that trauma-informed human rights perspective down pat”—trauma, that is, in “the ways that policies and laws have deep impact on schools, people and communities.”
Bottini Morales chose to do the first year’s study for the dual degree in the School of Social Work. She wanted to spend the remaining three years with her law school cohort and says the social work courses are a start to understanding how the law works—and doesn’t—for society’s historically excluded.
The two schools, they say, “are very distinct in their own way. For me, the School of Law has been more work. It’s like learning a completely new language. But I’m really enjoying what I’m learning, and putting the hours in.
“I’m extremely grateful for the scholarship,” Bottini Morales says, “knowing the financial implications of it, but also for the recognition from the admissions department that my application reflected the ideals I hold and that those ideals resemble the life that Teri Miller led. I hope I can live up to that idea of public interest and serving people, both in law school and beyond.”