Boyd School of Law Alumna of the Year Brenda Weksler has for the past 15 years worked as an assistant federal public defender in the trial unit, representing indigent clients. She formerly clerked for Judge Kathy Hardcastle at the Eighth Judicial District Court. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from UNLV in 1999 and her juris doctorate in 2002.
Tell us about a moment when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?
I was very fortunate to have been raised in a household full of love and encouragement. While my parents always told me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, I never truly believed them because, well, loving parents lack objectivity. And, frankly, I have always had a tendency to doubt my abilities.
My undergraduate work at UNLV and my days at Boyd Law School would be the time when my parents' deep-seated beliefs about me would be tested. I particularly remember professor (Evelyn) Gajowski and professor (Beth) Rosenberg, William Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf scholars respectively, who pushed me to test my abilities. Frank Durand, professor (Benes) Aldana, professor (Terrill) Pollman, and many others, picked up the baton at Boyd and continued encouraging my growth and development. They instilled in me the importance of giving back to my community and helping those who will come after me.
Much of the confidence I needed came from professors who, along the way, were willing to engage in conversations that left me with a renewed sense of what I could accomplish. I know there are many individuals who have not been as fortunate as I have been either because they lacked the guidance or the emotional support.
Mentorship: It's the law
Born in Buenos Aires, Weksler moved to Las Vegas when she was 14. Her years at Boyd School of Law, along with her years as an undergraduate at UNLV, instilled in her the need to help those who are less fortunate, she says.
“It is up to those of us who have benefited from this mentorship to provide it to those who come after us. It is our responsibility to mentor others and instill confidence in them by pointing out the way in which they shine,” she added.
She also mentors students through programs such as Huellas, designed for Boyd Law School’s La Voz program. In 2017, she was named Nevada’s Federal Public Defender of the Year. Weksler also received the Boyd School of Law Alumni Leadership Award and the National Association Criminal Justice Karen Winkler Dedicated Service Award in 2016.