Alison Ashe-Card named inaugural associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion
Alison Ashe-Card, an experienced litigator, career services professional, and champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal education and the legal profession, joined Duke Law School July 1 in a new senior leadership role.
As Duke Law’s inaugural associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Ashe-Card reports to Dean Kerry Abrams and has overall responsibility for developing and advancing DEI initiatives and supporting an inclusive climate throughout the Law School. Her portfolio of responsibilities includes collaborating with other leaders in the Law School community to help each unit achieve, track, and communicate its DEI goals; acting as a resource to individual students and student organizations in navigating inclusion and equity challenges; and representing the Law School in university-wide DEI efforts.
“I am thrilled to welcome Alison Ashe-Card into this critical new role advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at Duke Law School,” Abrams said. “Alison stood out in the search process as an especially wise, thoughtful, and experienced leader who will be a valuable resource for students, faculty, and staff.”
Ashe-Card previously worked for a decade at Wake Forest University School of Law, where she was most recently associate director of diversity and inclusion in the Office of Career and Professional Development. In this role, she led the development and implementation of the office’s educational programs as well as developing and guiding schoolwide diversity and inclusion initiatives. Before working in higher education, Ashe-Card was a products liability attorney at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice (now Womble Bond Dickinson) for 14 years.
“Given her prior accomplishments in advocating DEI values and developing DEI programs in academic and law practice settings, I am convinced Alison will contribute something truly unique and distinctive to our community,” said Alex Zhang, associate dean of information services and director of the J. Michael Goodson Law Library, who served as co-chair of the search committee. “I was very impressed by Alison’s extensive experience working with law students and her profound understanding of their needs in many aspects, which will make her a resourceful and engaging mentor to members of our student body with very different backgrounds.”
Raised in New Jersey, Ashe-Card graduated magna cum laude from Spelman College with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She earned her JD from American University Washington College of Law, where she was president of the Black Law Students Association and worked in the Women in the Law Clinic.
Ashe-Card, who said she aspired to be a lawyer from age 10 “so I could help people,” initially envisioned a career working in public interest law. She entered the profession as a staff attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (now Legal Aid Chicago) for five years, working in the shadow of the largest public housing project in the country.
After relocating to North Carolina, she joined Womble, where in addition to her litigation practice she engaged in frequent pro bono service and was a leader in the firm’s efforts to diversify the profession. She was a member of the firm’s first diversity committee and helped create Womble Scholars, a program that annually gave scholarships to diverse rising 2Ls at every North Carolina law school.
“I felt that because of the privilege I have being a Black female attorney, I have an obligation to give back and work in this space,” she said. “So in my practice, I started taking on these issues.”
When she joined the career and professional development staff at Wake Forest Law in 2013, Ashe-Card continued that work, including serving on the school’s first diversity committee, which she later chaired, and serving as advisor to the Black Law Students Association. In 2019, while continuing to provide career counseling, she began serving in the formal role leading the school’s DEI initiatives, which included convening conversations on race, developing educational programs on implicit bias, reviewing curricular offerings for inclusivity, and serving on a group tasked with developing a standard on the display of names and gender markers in university data systems.
Ashe-Card said the opportunity to shape a new role focused entirely on DEI was too good to pass up, and she is excited to work with people throughout the Law School community to build on the plans set forth in the Law School’s Preliminary Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is also excited to begin working with students and draws particular inspiration from a staff member who served as an informal support for her and others from underrepresented backgrounds when she was in law school.
“I hope to be a resource for students in a lot of different ways,” she said. “It takes time to develop those relationships, but I hope that as people see me in spaces throughout the Law School, they can recognize that I’m someone who you can very easily approach. I remember what it was like being in a law school and knowing that there was somebody that I could talk to.”
Ashe-Card has brought her interest and expertise in DEI issues to leadership roles in numerous professional organizations. She recently concluded service on the board of directors of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which represents legal career professionals, and previously served as chair of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Section and co-chair of its Diversity and Inclusion Section Strategic Planning Work Group. Beginning in 2020, she co-authored a six-part series in the NALP Bulletin entitled “Making Noise: Doing Our Part to Dismantle Racism and White Supremacy in the Legal Profession.”
Ashe-Card also serves on the Boards of Governors of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) and North Carolina Bar Foundation and is a past president of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers. In recognition of her extensive pro bono service, she has been honored as an inaugural member of the Association of American Law Schools’ Pro Bono Honor Roll and a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and has received the NCBA’s Citizen-Lawyer Award and the Lifetime Community Service Award from DRI, the largest organization representing civil defense lawyers.
“Alison quickly rose to the top of our applicant pool,” said Professor Veronica Root Martinez, who served on the search committee. “Her previous experiences working on DEI initiatives at a law school, paired with her connections within the North Carolina legal community, made her an ideal candidate for this position. I am excited to see her work with the administration, faculty, and students to make Duke Law an even better place.”
– Andrew Park