Somewhere in the UI College of Law’s admissions records is a letter of recommendation from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of Aracely Muñoz Petrich. Immediately after she graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master’s in Social Sciences, Aracely worked directly for Obama as Coordinator of the University’s Community Service Center. For three years, she helped to build sustainable partnerships among a network of students, faculty, and community organizations.
Knowing her passion for community-focused work, a mentor advised her to look into the University of Iowa College of Law. “She knew of their deep commitment to diversity, as evidenced by the College’s financial support,” Aracely says. “I obviously wanted a top tier legal education, but at a price that would allow me to do the kind of work I was passionate about.”
A native of Chicago—she jokingly says the suburbs “don’t count” and identifies city neighborhoods by parishes, hers being St. Mary of the Lake—Aracely was among the older students in her law school class. “Because I had been to graduate school and was already working, I had commitments that some of the other students didn’t have,” she recalls of her first year. For example, she was on several boards in Chicago that necessitated her traveling back to the city regularly.
Eventually, she settled into a routine in Iowa City, where she worked with Professor Adrien Wing, and served as an articles editor for the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice. Although she was in the minority as a Latina student, she felt supported by the school and was pleased to watch the Latino community in Iowa City “grow exponentially” during her three-year tenure.
“Diversity is hard for great schools to get right,” says Aracely. “In truth, there are only a few parts of the country, a few cities really, in which you can achieve the kind of diversity and inclusion that a lot of schools would like to have.”
Aracely never lost sight of her desire to apply her legal education to community issues. She returned to Chicago both summers for internships with the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the City of Chicago.
After graduation from law school, Aracely was a Civil Litigation Attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, and then went on to work as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago’s Department of Law, which serves the Mayor, the City Council, and more than 40 client departments, boards, and commissions.
In 2008, she went to the American Bar Association where she served in two capacities, as Director for the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession and as Director of the Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities. This past year she joined the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) in Washington D.C., a global bar association that serves more than 30,000 in-house lawyers employed by over 10,000 organizations in more than 75 countries, to serve as Associate General Counsel and Director of Large Law Programs.
“I meet a lot of Iowa Law alumni in my work across the country,” she says, “and I’m always impressed by where they have gone with their degree and what they are doing.”