U Law Student Named Among Top 25 in United States


University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Building on campus on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015

Nubia Peña, a committed advocate of women and marginalized communities and recent graduate of the S.J. Quinney School of Law, was recognized by National Jurist Magazine as one of the top 25 law students in the country.

Born in Mexico and raised in Philadelphia, Peña moved to Utah to be with her twin sister. When her sister decided to leave Utah, Peña stayed because of the strong relationship she had formed with her community. There were many in the Salt Lake Valley that Peña called family and she knew that the people she had grown so close to needed someone to defend their rights.


Peña began her career working with law enforcement where she served as a victim advocate for 10 years. She was passionate about helping female victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Peña said her goal was to “be able to stand in the gap of them and the system and process to help them,” but she felt that she wasn’t doing enough. She decided to apply to law school at the U, a step she had considered taking for a long time. Were she to be accepted, Peña said she would take it as, “a sign from God that it was meant to be.” Peña was accepted and began her journey in law.

When Peña arrived at the U, she noticed that there weren’t any student organizations that addressed the topics that she cared most about. Peña organized and led the U’s Social Justice Student Initiative. The organization focuses on mass incarceration, sexual assault, human trafficking, racial oppression and other social issues. Through the group, Peña organized events that she hoped would incite change.

Peña has been involved in the development of numerous policy reports. One project, called Finger Paint to Fingerprints: The Utah School-to-Prison Pipeline, was used by Representative Sandra Hollins (D) in the passage of state legislation addressing the vulnerability of at-risk youth in the criminal justice system.

National Jurist Magazine is not the only organization that has acknowledged Peña’s dedication to defending the rights of marginalized individuals. Equal Justice Works, a group that is dedicated to empowering the next generation of lawyers seeking justice for underprivileged communities, named Peña the 2016 Public Interest Award winner for the mountain region.

“I am grateful to represent women of color,” Peña said. “I want to encourage other women who want to be lawyers, and show them they can make a difference.”

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