PUBLISHED:April 11, 2023

Aguirre receives the 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award at the D.O.N.E. Awards


Student-voted awards also went to Paul Finkelstein ’24, Molly Diamondstein ’23, and Sasha Kahn ’23, several student groups and strategic communications manager Sean Rowe, who received the Distinguished Staff Member Award.

Associate Professor Emilie Aguirre Associate Professor Emilie Aguirre

Associate Professor Emilie Aguirre received the 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award from Duke Law School students at the annual D.O.N.E. Awards on April 10.

Aguirre, who teaches Contracts as well as courses on social entrepreneurship, was praised as having an “enduring impact on her students” and embodying “a true reflection of the excellence in teaching at Duke Law.”

Student leaders Paul Finkelstein ’24, Molly Diamondstein ’23, and Sasha Kahn ’23 also received awards, as did the student groups Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), American Constitution Society (ACS), and Lyme Disease Advocacy Project (LDAP).

Sean Rowe, strategic communications manager at the Law School, received the Distinguished Staff Member Award.

The D.O.N.E. Awards – D.O.N.E. stands for Duke Law Outstanding and Noteworthy Endeavors – are sponsored by the Duke Bar Association. Nominations are submitted by students and winners are determined by a committee of students from all three class years.

DBA Academics Chair Anita Ugalde ’25, who presented the awards, noted that Aguirre “emerged from a highly competitive field of professors” to win the teaching award, which is supported by the Duke Law Class of 1967.

“One student commented, ‘I think the luckiest thing that happened to me this year is being placed in Professor Aguirre's small section!’” she said.

“Professor Aguirre not only teaches the content of her class in an understandable way, but she also creates a strong community in the classroom. Her ability to care deeply for her students as individuals, while providing rigorous instruction, makes her an exceptional teacher.”

Aguirre, a business law scholar whose research focuses on companies pursuing both social purpose and profit, joined the faculty in 2021. She was previously the Earl B. Dickerson Fellow the University of Chicago Law School, where she taught and conducted research at the intersection of business law, management, and health and food systems.

Aguirre, who in class asks students to offer what they are grateful for and proud of, said she was “beyond grateful to be honored” with the teaching award and proud to have received it.

“I feel a lot of gratitude for the kindness and the thoughtfulness of this community and the efforts that you went to, to honor me,” she said. “I am really, really grateful that so many of you have placed your trust in me to help shepherd you through law school, whether that's in a classroom, in an affinity group, in your career plans, or in your personal lives.

“To know that the maybe sometimes more unconventional approach that I take and wackiness and vulnerability is not only accepted but actually celebrated and loved means more to me than you know. So thank you. I think that we are not just here to learn the law or get a job that we're here to grow as people and discover and hone our individual gifts and to use them to make a difference in the world and to impact those around us. And I feel honored that I get to participate in that process side by side with all of you.”

Three student leaders were recognized during the ceremony, and nominators cited them all for their commitment to service and hard work at building community:

  • Finkelstein received the Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award for his leadership of ACS, which has expanded its presence this year, grown its relationships with other student groups and faculty advisors, and partnered with a local nonprofit on a voter registration drive, Ugalde said. “He embodies the qualities of a leader, consistently going above and beyond to make sure that ACS can provide high-quality events for the Law School community.”
  • Diamondstein received the Outstanding Contribution to the Duke Law Community award, which recognized the myriad ways she has gotten involved at the Law School, including as a LEAD Fellow, admissions assistant, research assistant, and student attorney in the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, as well as in numerous student organizations. “Her tireless efforts and passion for serving others have made her an admirable leader and outstanding member of the Duke Law community,” Ugalde said, citing one student’s comment that “‘Molly really does it all and has contributed to Duke Law more than anyone else I know.’”
  • Kahn won the Richard Lin Service Above Self Award, which honors Lin, a member of the Class of 2016, and is given to a student who embodies the qualities of optimism, integrity, humility, and generosity of time and energy without the need of a formal leadership position. Kahn was recognized for his kindness, mentorship, and support for fellow students, as well as his dedication of time to clinic and pro bono service. “One of Sasha's peers sums it up best, ‘When I saw that there was a service above self award, there was only one person I could think of who so completely embodied that statement: it's Sasha Kahn. Every part of the description of Richard Lin's legacy rang true,’” Ugalde said.

Three student organizations were also recognized for the work they did this year:

  • APALSA won the award for Greatest Role in Building Relationships. “APALSA's efforts to create events and opportunities for community building between different student organizations, and to reach out to faculty, guest lecturers, practitioners, and Duke alumni have been truly remarkable,” Ugalde said. “As one student put it … APALSA has become ‘integrated in the fabric of our community.’”
  • ACS was recognized for Outstanding Contribution to Civil Discourse. Students praised the group for “demonstrating a commitment to fostering discussion and promoting thoughtful engagement,” and hosting events that “have focused on the courts and the law's trajectory, providing a platform for students and professors to engage with some of the most pressing legal issues of our time.”
  • LDAP, a new pro bono group that provides advocacy and support for people with Lyme disease, received the award for Greatest Service to the Outside Community. “‘The group has filled a real and distinct need in the legal community,’” Ugalde said, quoting a student nomination. “‘The Lyme community may be niche, but people are harmed by this disease, and this group has done great work in working towards alleviating barriers preventing people from getting or seeking help.’”

Rowe, who manages social media and multimedia in the Office of Communications and was on hand to photograph the event, was praised as “someone who has gone above and beyond their job description to enhance the student experience and support the mission of Duke Law.”

“A big thanks from me to the students for the honor,” he said after the ceremony. “I really enjoy what I do at the Law School and one of the best parts of that is getting to raise awareness about the amazing work that the students are engaged in.”