Commencement Speaker Jada Davis ‘made moves, not excuses’

Editor’s Note: Jada Davis had been selected as the Spring 2020 Commencement Speaker. Because of the postponement and eventual transition to a ‘drive-through’ experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jada’s speech has been recorded and will be published Saturday, August 22, 2020. What follows is the story of her journey through UW-Green Bay.

It’s been said that great leaders are born, not made. Can the same thing be said of great lawyers? Jada Davis’ journey from the north side of Milwaukee to the 2020 Commencement at UW-Green Bay is striking evidence that the road to leadership and law can travel the same path.

And she’s just getting started. Which is impressive because she started early. “I wanted to be a lawyer since the second grade.” Davis recalls, “I used to dress up as a lawyer for career day. And for Halloween.” (No mention of whether she carried candy in a briefcase.)

“It’s what I’ve wanted to do for my whole life.” She makes this statement with the conviction of someone who knows how to set and reach goals. And true to one of the best reasons for attending college, Davis has been bundling her passions, talents and pursuits into a very interesting life. And that life’s about to take another interesting turn as she enters Marquette University Law School in the fall.

As a double major in Democracy and Justice Studies and Communication it’s amazing she found time to dance (her minor). There were no lawyers in her immediate family. But her parents approved of her judicial and artistic aspirations. “They loved it. I wanted to be like the dancing lawyer.”

Make that dancing lawyer turned entrepreneur with her launch of a clothing line last year—Modern Movement Apparel. One of her sweatshirt designs well encapsulates her time at UW-Green Bay— “Make Moves. Not Excuses.”

The primary factor that brought Davis from the suburbs of Milwaukee to UW-Green Bay is arguably the major reason most students find and stay with a college—a good fit. “Green Bay had what I wanted to study and it wasn’t too far from home.” Davis has been on the move since day one as a member of the Green Bay Dance Team and continued all four years.

The only deficit she may have had during her time on campus is sleep. Just the highlights of her achievements on and off campus are exhaustive and exhausting: mentor and participant for MESA’s Jump Start first-year student program, president of the Women of Color student organization and chair of events for Psi Theta Nu, (a multicultural sorority), University Leadership Awards, Chancellor’s Medallion, participation in Marquette University’s 2018 Diversity Pre- Law Conference and Pennsylvania State Law Explore Law Summer Program, internships with the Black Youth Alliance and The Weidner Center—all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA.

The secret to Davis’ success isn’t really a secret—seeking help through collaborators, mentors, putting in a lot of hard work, and then giving back to the community and fellow students.

“When I first got there, I was in a program called Jump Start and had a chance to get used to campus, without a lot of people being there. That helped a lot with my transition.” Davis’ other talent isn’t a secret—a capacity and willingness to work hard. Democracy and Justice Studies Professor Harvey Kaye lauded her effort “as very determined and very dependable young woman who always came to class prepared with the assignment and ready to work.”

She’s even developed an interesting take on her Communication major—“Just having that communications background can help me when I’m dealing with different kinds of people and different kinds of audiences.” And when considering her ultimate career goal those “audiences” will eventually become clients. “I want to be a divorce attorney and make that my profession.”

Prepare to shift the popular perceptions of the typical divorce attorney. Even her rationale for making what, at first blush, seems like an unusual legal career path, doesn’t appear to be driven only by ambition, but also of service to others at a very difficult life transition.

“I want to see different outcomes for families. I just want to be a part of the process and make it better for different families.”

If her time and accomplishments as a Phoenix is any indication, justice and service will be well served.

See Jada Davis’s “You Are Revolutionary” Commencement Speech.