The Young Lawyers Section (YLS) held its eleventh Diversity Award Dinner on February 7 at Amarante’s Sea Cliff in New Haven. The honor was presented to Asha Rangappa—former FBI agent, CNN contributor, and senior lecturer at Yale University—for her outstanding efforts on behalf of diversity.
YLS Chair David A. McGrath introduced the event and provided the background of the award. The YLS Diversity Award is presented to a person in the legal field who has shown both a personal and professional commitment to the elimination of bias in the legal profession as well as the principle that all people should have full and equal protection in the justice system.
YLS Senior Advisor Suphi A. Philip introduced Attorney Rangappa, noting that the recipient is “the embodiment of a creative, persevering spirit.” To illustrate this point, Attorney Philip shared an anecdote about Attorney Rangappa’s FBI physical fitness exam. After suffering contused ribs in a car accident, Attorney Rangappa continued her training and was able to complete the required running, push-up, pull-up, and sit-up drills to stay in the program beyond the required minimum.
Asha Rangappa is a director of admissions and senior lecturer at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and a former associate dean at Yale Law School. Prior to her current position, she served as a special agent in the New York Division of the FBI, specializing in counterintelligence investigations. She was one of the first Indian-American female recruits to the FBI after the agency began a post-9/11 push for diversity and inclusion. Her work involved assessing threats to the national security, conducting classified investigations on suspected foreign agents, and performing undercover work. While in the FBI, Attorney Rangappa gained experience in intelligence trade craft, electronic surveillance, interview and interrogation techniques, and firearms and the use of deadly force.
In her previous role as Yale Law School’s dean of admissions, she was a part of the school’s efforts to increase diversity, which resulted in the most diverse class in Yale Law School’s history, in 2017.
Consistently involved in the Connecticut legal community, Attorney Rangappa has served on the boards of the South Asian Bar Association of Connecticut (SABAC), the Connecticut chapters of the Society of Former Agents of the FBI, and the National Organization for Women (NOW). She has long supported Young Lawyers Section programs, including its Annual Women's Professional Golf Event.
Attorney Rangappa graciously thanked the CBA and the organizations in attendance in support of her, stating: “Both [Yale] Law School and SABAC have played important roles in both shaping my career and offering me different perspectives on diversity and how it intersects with the legal profession.” She shared that she receives calls from South Asian girls and women each week who want to discuss a potential career in law enforcement or national security; many of them say that this career path had simply never occurred to them as something that they could do until they saw it in front of them.
She concluded the evening with a nod to the future of diversity and inclusion: “We as underrepresent[ed] groups in the legal profession in this country have a responsibility to paint a picture where our communities can see this path as one that they belong in and can belong in, and not only because doing so reflects the America we live in, but because it protects it as well.”