The University of Michigan Law School announces the recipients of its annual student awards and recognitions. These annual awards, presented at the conclusion of the academic year, include the most prestigious honors: the Bates, Mixer, and Stenn awards.
Henry M. Bates Memorial Scholarship Award
Sarah Bender, Gabe Chess, Nia Vogel
Presented to outstanding seniors in the Law School, with account taken of scholarship in legal studies, personality, character, extracurricular interests, and promise of a distinguished career. The award was established in 1949 through the generosity of alumni and friends in memory of the late Dean Henry M. Bates.
“We found Sarah to be a gifted writer, an excellent partner on her student team, and a passionate, deep-thinking advocate for her client. … In every instance, we have been impressed with her aptitude and enthusiasm, but also with her humility and compassion.”—Faculty Nominators
Sarah Bender received the inaugural Paul R. Dimond Prize for her note on the use of artificial intelligence in US elections. She has presented her findings to international audiences, including the Council of Europe, and published her research in Michigan Law Review. As a student-attorney in the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic, she argued two cases before the Michigan Court of Appeals, which ruled in her clients’ favor in both matters. She also was co-chair of the Michigan Voting Project, received several certificates of merit, and co-authored a forthcoming book chapter on artificial intelligence and medicine. She will begin her career as an associate at WilmerHale and then clerk for the Hon. Michael P. Shea on the US District Court for the District of Connecticut and the Hon. Susan L. Carney on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“Gabe was an extraordinarily talented student from the moment he walked in the door his 1L year. He was writing like an associate long before he ended 1L, and his outstanding oral advocacy shows through in the fact that he made finals at Campbell this year. In addition, Gabe is just a genuinely nice person.”—Faculty Nominator
Gabe Chess was a finalist in the 2023 Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition and on the executive board of the competition the previous year. He published a note in the Michigan Law Review on government contracting with a focus on public-private partnerships in Detroit, served as the book review editor of the Michigan Law Review and as a researcher for several professors, and received many certificates of merit. As a student-attorney in the Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic and in summer internships and externships, he worked on various issues related to the criminal legal system. Following graduation, he will clerk for the Hon. Toby J. Heytens on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Hon. Jia M. Cobb on the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Nia is an amazing student and human being … . She has a quick and brilliant mind, and she uses it not just to elevate class discussion, but to elevate her peers themselves. Speaking with Nia is always a joy because she has smart and insightful things to say, and she approaches even the darkest situations with a kind word and a cheerful smile.”—Faculty Nominator
Nia Vogel was the managing editor of the Michigan Law Review and was one of only two students to serve on the Law School’s Dean Search Committee. She was the executive board chair of the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition and co-chair of the Black Law Students Association Admissions Outreach Committee. She also worked as a student attorney in the Michigan Innocence Clinic. In addition, she was a senior judge for the First-Year Legal Practice Program. Following graduation, she will clerk for the Hon. Michael Y. Scudder Jr. on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and then for the Hon. Edmond E. Chang on the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Jane L. Mixer Memorial Award
Presented to the students who have made the greatest contribution to activities designed to advance the cause of social justice. Students, faculty, and staff provide nominations for the award. The award was established in 1969 through the generosity of alumni and friends in memory of the late Jane L. Mixer.
“Alexis is committed to social justice and a career in public interest. … She will be a superb attorney in the public interest field, and we strongly recommend her for the Mixer Award in recognition of her amazing achievements in this realm so far.”—Faculty Nominators
Alexis Franks served as the executive editor of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and was a quarterfinalist in the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition during her 2L year. She was a legal extern with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan during her last semester and worked as a student-attorney/advanced student-attorney in the Michigan Innocence Clinic. After graduation, she will be clerking on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.
Irving Stenn Jr. Award
Dashaya Foreman, Jeff Gurley, Will Hanna
Presented to students who have demonstrated leadership and contributed, through extracurricular activities, to the well-being and strength of the Law School or University. The award, established in 1976, is made possible through the generosity of Irving Stenn Jr., '55, and his father, Irving Stenn Sr., of Chicago.
“As editor-in-chief, she leads one of the most respected law reviews in the country with diligence, grace, intelligence, and patience. … Dashaya’s leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities have made a significant, positive impact on the well-being and strength of Michigan Law School.”—Faculty Nominator
In her role as editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review, where she was only the second Black student to hold that position in the journal’s 121-year history, Dashaya Foreman focused on publishing authors of diverse backgrounds and fostering a community of inclusiveness. She also served as co-chair of the Black Law Students Association, a senior judge for the Legal Writing Program, co-chair of the Alden J. “Butch” Carpenter Memorial Scholarship Award committee (after having won the award as a 1L), and a student-attorney in the Community Enterprise Clinic and Juvenile Justice Clinic. During her time at Michigan, she has been recognized for her leadership skills and commitment by the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation and the Women Law Students Association. After graduation, she will clerk for the Hon. Stephanie Dawkins Davis on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Hon. Amy Berman Jackson on the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Jeff has served as the Law School's Federalist Society student chapter president this year, and he's done a terrific job. … And his leadership team has implemented formal programming to better assist the chapter’s members in pursuing clerkships.”—Faculty Nominator
As president of the Law School’s Federalist Society student chapter, Jeff Gurley led the chapter to the Alexander Hamilton Award for Most Improved Chapter in the country. He spent two semesters with the Veterans Legal Clinic, interviewed candidates for the Office of Career Planning, and was contributing editor for the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform. He also served on the executive board of the Texas Club. Following graduation, he will clerk for the Hon. Sean Jordan on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
“Whether it is organizing an event for veterans or helping recruit for the Admissions Office or devoting copious hours to serving on the Dean Search Committee, Will Hanna exhibits community-mindedness in everything he undertakes. He is diligent and smart and, most importantly, constantly exhibits an exceptional good nature. He is emblematic of what we seek in a student.”—Nominator
Will Hanna served as one of only two students on the Law School’s Dean Search Committee and as the rules chair of the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition, for which he was also a quarterfinalist in his 2L year. He led the Veterans Society as co-president, served as a notes editor on the Michigan Law Review, and supported 1L students as a senior judge in the Legal Practice Program, all while completing more than 90 hours of pro bono work. He will begin his career as a clerk for the Hon. Gerald A. McHugh on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Banner Photo: The recipients of this year's most prestigious honors include, in front, from left to right: Gabe Chess, Dashaya Foreman, and Nia Vogel, and, in back, from left to right: Jeff Gurley, Sarah Bender, Alexis Franks, and Will Hanna.