Single Mom's Success Started at UT Dallas
Support on Campus Helped '96 Grad Blaze a Trail of Achievement at UT Dallas
May 31, 2010
As a 17-year-old freshman, Jennine Lunceford had the typical college pressures of homework and grades, but she was also sharing her Waterview Park apartment with her precocious 1-year-old daughter, Lucy. Not only did the duo ace their way through UT Dallas, but mom and daughter headed to Harvard, where they conquered law school, too.
Lunceford (BA ’96) got her jump start while at Cedar Hill High School. As a junior about to give birth, she spent time at home reading about the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. She took it, was named a national merit scholar and received a scholarship to UT Dallas through the Academic Excellence Scholarship Program.
That first semester in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, Lunceford settled in to college life and Lucy lived with her grandmother. “There was such diversity – practically every apartment had a Caucasian, African-American, Indian and Hispanic student,” Lunceford said. The group bonded through nights spent in heated debates and intellectual discussions. “We were kind of nerds, but we were having fun,” she added.
Later, Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, then dean of undergraduate studies, created a job for Lunceford in his department, which enabled her to take a private apartment so that she and Lucy could have a place to themselves. Then he went even further. “He literally put a desk in his office suite so that I could work and study with Lucy next to me,” Lunceford said. “That’s how we got through college.”
Lunceford also worked in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, creating programs and activities to support student life. When she wasn’t working or studying, she and her classmates were abuzz. After all, they were one of the first freshman classes to attend UT Dallas after the Texas Legislature authorized the University to admit freshmen and sophomores for the first time in 1990.
They felt like pioneers.
“We started or were part of almost every program at UT Dallas – Greek life, student government and student clubs. This is a big reason that my law school applications were so successful,” she said.
When it was time to apply to law schools, Drs. Greg Thielemann and Anthony Champagne, along with then-University President Franklyn G. Jenifer, “each sat down with me and wrote my recommendations.”
Heading to the Ivy League, “I did not feel intimidated on an academic level," she said. "I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I think my education at UT Dallas put me ahead of most folks.”
Fresh out of Harvard, she went to the Jones Day law firm in Dallas, where she spent a year training as a litigator. Wanting to “make a positive contribution,” she left private practice and accepted a position as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor, where she focused on enforcing laws covering fair wages, discrimination and whistleblower protection.
Lunceford returned to corporate practice in 2005 and defended companies regarding a variety of employment issues. Her passion for the underdog persisted, however, prompting the opening of her own practice, where she works with individual clients on issues such as employment discrimination and retaliation as well as family law disputes.
She lives in DeSoto and now has three children, Lucy, 18, and 6-year-old twins, Theron and Jenora.