mack and fleishmann outside.

Stephanie Mack '08 with Ilene Fleischmann, Vice Dean for Alumni Affairs

A new voice in alumni outreach

Stephanie Mack ’08, Assistant Director for Alumni Affairs

As UB School of Law’s new assistant director for alumni affairs, Stephanie Mack ’08 shares a portfolio that engages the school spirit of more than 12,500 alumni worldwide.

She’ll be happy, she says, to shake all those hands. An extrovert by nature and a Western New York native with deep ties to the legal community, Mack brings to her new role experience as an insurance defense attorney and enthusiasm for her return to O’Brian Hall.

Her hiring comes at a time of growth for the UB Law Alumni Association and the school’s Office of Alumni Relations. “The department has grown, and we’re the most active we’ve ever been,” says Ilene Fleischmann, vice dean for alumni and executive director of the Law Alumni Association. “I’m excited to have Stephanie as part of our team. The fact that she’s a lawyer is very helpful to our students, and it’s extremely valuable that she is so familiar with the law school and the students’ experience here.”

Adds Elizabeth Kraengel ’07, UB Law Alumni Association president: “Stephanie’s extensive experience as a trial lawyer and her depth of connections in the Western New York legal community make her a terrific fit for Alumni Affairs. She’s passionate about attorney mental health, well-being and inclusivity. She brings to the position a fearless attitude and bright personality—the Law Alumni Board is excited to be working with her!”   

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There’s plenty of work to go around; the alumni office works with the Law Alumni Association and its subset of more recent graduates, the GOLD Group, to organize CLEs and class reunions, arrange mentoring for law students, recognize outstanding alumni and support alumni chapters nationwide. One of Mack’s first projects, working with the New York City alumni chapter, has been organizing an Oct. 6 lobster boat cruise of New York Harbor.

Mack and her husband, John Wager, live in Williamsville with their 2-year-old daughter, Winnie, and a Shih Tzu-Bichon Frisé mix named Nugget. She took time out recently to chat about the law school and her fellow alumni.

What has it been like coming back to O’Brian Hall after being away for more than a decade?

I was a transfer student at UB Law, and once I was officially accepted, I was elated. I really enjoyed getting to know alumni through the trial team, being exposed to mentors and making connections. Those connections helped me get the various jobs I had and coming back to O’Brian makes me realize how important those connections are and how special those relationships can be. Returning to the law school, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the changes. The emphasis on wellness is really great, and I love walking into the building and feeling the energy of the students.

As assistant director for alumni affairs, is your role more about maintaining our current programs or initiating new ones?

It’s a little bit of both. Many of the programs, events and CLEs will stay the same, but the wonderful folks here have assured me that just because we’ve done it this way in the past doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. They want me to make the position my own. I’m learning from the best, but also looking toward the future and I’m not afraid to explore new things.

UB Law is known for having a particularly close-knit and engaged alumni community. From your experience and the alumni you know, where does this feeling come from?

There’s a certain type of pride that comes with graduating from UB Law, and there’s an overall sense of Buffalo pride. We care about this city and want it to do well, and we realize the legal community is an important part of that. There’s something special about this city. We’ve gone through heartache but we weather the storms and we are there for each other, and that extends to the legal community, too.

In addition to being an alumna yourself, you have career experience as a trial attorney. How might that help you as you work with alumni in your new role?

Being a trial attorney is very much about engaging the jury. I was never afraid to get in front of jurors and talk to them, and that is a massive part of my job now. I’ll walk into rooms full of people I don’t know, go right up and introduce myself and talk to them. It’s about connecting with people, it’s about engaging people, and when you have a topic you’re passionate about, that makes conveying the message a lot easier.

You’ve expressed interest in the mental health and well-being of people in the legal professions. What can the Law Alumni Association do to promote wellness?

The GOLD Group just voted to create a wellness committee, and I was so happy about that. I want to get out there and spread the message, to create more groups and places for people to talk. The younger alumni are often the ones who we are focused on, so it’s definitely going to become my mission to reach out to all alumni, whether they’ve been out 10, 15, or 20 years. Wellness is an important issue for everyone.

The Law Alumni Association is focused on diversity, equity and inclusion issues. How do you see those efforts dovetailing with similar initiatives happening at law firms, at companies, and in the courts?

I have observed conscious efforts throughout the Buffalo legal community, from law firms to the courts, to truly promote and embrace the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We have some phenomenal leaders in the legal community who have worked incredibly hard to promote change in culture and create a place of belonging.  We are so lucky that many of them are involved with the Law Alumni Association.  I fully stand with these leaders and am committed to promoting these values and raising awareness. I am happy and proud to see changes from when I was admitted to the bar in 2008.  However, we must realize the work is ongoing and not grow complacent.

What else would you like to say here?

One thing I would like the alumni to know is that it’s never too late to pivot if you do want to make a change. I pivoted after nearly 14 years of practice, and it was the biggest professional decision of my life. It was very scary, but three months in I’m really happy and have great hope for the future.