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Arlene with Dean Hussey and a blue WLC sign receiving her award at the PA Capitol.

Widener Law Commonwealth honors alumna for public service at annual Capitol event

Widener Law Commonwealth alumna Arlene Marshall-Hockensmith ’06 received the law school’s Excellence in Public Service Award during the 2023 Evening at the Capitol ceremony held on November 14, 2023, in the Main Rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Marshall-Hockensmith was recently appointed as the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). In that role, she works with DCNR’s leadership to incorporate the principles of DEIB into all aspects of the agency’s work and to increase and advance programs and services that serve all Pennsylvanians pursuant to the Environmental Rights Amendment of the state constitution.

She joined DCNR in August 2023 after nearly ten years at the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN), where, as the first woman of color to hold a senior leadership role, she served as PLAN’s first Director of DEIB. Prior to PLAN, she worked as an attorney at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and MidPenn Legal Services.

She currently serves on the board of directors at Regional Housing Legal Services. She is a former National Legal Aid and Defender Association Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fellow. She also held several volunteer leadership positions at the Pennsylvania Bar Association and serves as the current Editor-in-Chief of the Minority Bar Committee’s Houston’s Legacy Newsletter.

The Excellence in Public Service Award is sponsored by Widener Law Commonwealth’s Law and Government Institute. The institute focuses on the complex intersection of legislation, regulation, public policy, and the law. It offers specialized certificates in government law, hosts lectures and other programs, and offers career networking and development opportunities to students.

In presenting the award, Dean Michael Hussey said, “Many of us at the law school have had the privilege of working with Arlene throughout her career. We know first-hand her commitment to public service, as well as her commitment to Widener Law Commonwealth and our students. She is someone who cares deeply about equal access to justice for low-income Pennsylvanians and victims of domestic violence and their families. She has spent her career lifting up others so that they might have their basic human needs, such as shelter, food, and safety, met.”

Marshall-Hockensmith then spoke about her journey and her commitment to public service. “I stand before you tonight as a proud Caribbean-American woman, first generation college and professional degree graduate accepting this award. To receive an award for excellence in public service is very humbling. To me, public service is much more than a job or career, it is a way of life.”

She also expressed her gratitude to the law school community for its support from the very beginning of her legal career. “When I started my law studies at Widener Law Commonwealth, I was a young mother working full-time and raising a one-and-a-half-year-old. He’s now twenty-three. It was hard, but I had strong family and law school support systems that carried me through. I am so appreciative of the support that I received from the deans and my professors. Without their support and guidance, I am uncertain that I would have completed my law studies.”

Widener Law Commonwealth will hold its annual Evening at the Capitol ceremony again next fall, the culmination of a year celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Law and Government Institute in 2024.

Photo, left to right: Arlene Marshall-Hockensmith ’06 and WLC Dean Michael Hussey


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