By: Ashley N. Sybesma, 16th Judicial Circuit YLD Board of Governors Representative, Ex-Officio
Each year the Florida Bar YLD Board of Governors presents its Diversity Award, given to a person or entity that respects and promotes diversity. The Award reflects diversity in the practice of law and is defined as encouraging more gender, racial, ethnic, religious, and other minority participation in law schools, the practice of law—in all areas of the law including private, corporate and public or government practices. Individuals, law firms, and government offices are among past award recipients. This year, the YLD is proud to present the Diversity Award and recognize Cynthia Henry Duval, Esq., Associate Director of Career and Professional Development, and Adjunct Professor for Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center.
Ms. Duval received her B.A. from Florida A&M University and most recently received her J.D. from the University of Miami in 1999. First as a practitioner, and now as a law school administrator, Ms. Duval’s entire professional career has been devoted to fostering diversity and inclusion, as well as promoting a more diverse workplace. In her daily work, Ms. Duval is charged with ensuring that the diverse students of NSU Shepard Broad Law Center have equal opportunity and access to legal internships, and ultimately, to employment options, designed to enhance the practice of law in Florida and beyond. She has created an environment that helps eliminate barriers to diversity and inclusion, promoting full contribution and participation by all in the profession.
Outside of her full-time work, Ms. Duval’s community service has made a remarkable impact on the diverse landscape within the practice of law here in Florida. She has spent hundreds of hours counseling prospective college and law students of all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels about what it means to practice law and the importance of having diverse perspectives as part of our legal processes. Further, as President-Elect and President of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association (GSCBWLA), Ms. Duval dedicated herself to ensuring that issues of importance to diverse women law students and lawyers are given due consideration as part of the broader conversation revolving around diversity and inclusion.
Most recently, on September 18, 2015, Ms. Duval launched a major national symposium on the School to Prison Pipeline (“STPP Symposium”) held at NSU Shepard Broad Law center which was designed to help inform and organize stakeholders in government, law, and education in order to ameliorate the undue criminalization of children of color. She has also mentored personally and corporately through strategic programming designed to foster and encourage participation of diverse attorneys in the legal profession. Ms. Duval’s contributions to expand the field for capable, talented diverse law students, lawyers, and ultimately workplace contributors is truly inspiring. The YLD Diversity Award is a well-deserved recognition for a career dedicated to the promotion of diversity.