BY: Milik Robinson | DATE: Jun 11, 2024

Director of Financial Aid Leaves Behind a Legacy of Empowerment and Transformation

Dr. Angela Joseph receives an award at the CUNY BLSA Soul Food Gala.

Dr. Angela Joseph receives an award at the 2024 CUNY BLSA Soul Food Gala

Dr. Angela Joseph’s remarkable journey has taken her from her native Belize to the halls of CUNY Law, where she has been a dedicated member of the community since 1991, when she joined the Law School as its Director of Financial Aid. With a passion for education, social justice, and empowering young people, Dr. Joseph has made significant contributions to the lives of countless students and the broader CUNY community.

In this interview with Milik Robinson, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, we delve into her experiences, inspirations, and hopes for the future as she reflects on her tenure at CUNY Law on the eve of her retirement.


You’ve had a remarkable journey from being a classically trained pianist playing at Carnegie Hall to pursuing a career in law. Can you tell us about the connection between your musical pursuits and your decision to join CUNY Law?

The connection between my musical pursuits and my career in law is rooted in a strong belief in the power of expression and the pursuit of excellence. From the age of nine to 18, I had the opportunity to play piano at Carnegie Hall each summer as a classically trained artist through the Jackson Heights Institute of Music. This experience was a dream come true, achieved through passion, discipline, and resilience – equally crucial values in the legal field. My interest in CUNY Law stemmed from its dedication to social justice and accessibility. I saw an opportunity to contribute to a mission that aligns with my core beliefs – empowering individuals and advocating for the underserved.


Throughout your career at CUNY Law, you’ve earned a reputation for your dedication. How have your experiences shaped your approach to managing law students’ financial matters and fostering a student-centered approach to making a career in public interest law more accessible? 

Throughout my career in higher education, I have earned a strong reputation for consistently performing at a high level in graduate education, student services, and financial aid. With my extensive experience using student information systems and staying up-to-date with trends, laws, literature, and research relevant to higher education administration and student affairs, I am well-equipped to manage graduate students’ financial matters and implement graduate financial aid policies and processes for both master’s and doctoral programs. As a result of working in complex environments, I have developed exceptional communication, analytical, organizational, and problem-solving skills. My dedication to applying equal opportunity/affirmative action principles has helped foster a student-centered culture prioritizing student success, development, and academic excellence.


A lot has changed at CUNY Law during the three decades you’ve worked here. Can you share some insights into how the Law School has evolved and what elements of our mission have remained the same? 

Over the past thirty years, CUNY Law has undergone transformative changes, emerging as a beacon of progressive legal education. A significant part of this evolution has been our focus on financial aid, one of the key ways we have advanced our mission as an access school to ensure that a legal career is not a privilege but a possibility for all. We have cultivated a diverse and passionate community of legal professionals committed to justice by providing all legal education access. This inclusivity has not only changed the demographic makeup of our student body and enriched our academic discourse, but changed the landscape of the profession, too.


How has your experience at CUNY Law shaped your personal and professional growth? 

My time at CUNY Law has been a continuous journey of growth and reflection. Engaging with students and colleagues from diverse backgrounds has expanded my perspectives and pushed me to think more critically and empathetically. Professionally, I have progressed from being the Director of Financial Aid to a professor, and now I serve as a mentor and advocate for systemic change within legal education. These experiences have strengthened my belief in the power of education as a tool for empowerment and social change.


In addition to your work at CUNY Law, you also teach at Guttman Community College. What drives your commitment to education beyond CUNY Law? 

Education is the most potent tool for effecting change—it shapes minds, transforms societies, and bridges inequalities. My commitment to education at CUNY Law and Guttman Community College is driven by a desire to contribute to this transformative process. Teaching at Guttman, focusing on providing urban students with a solid educational foundation, complements my work at CUNY Law, allowing me to impact the broader ecosystem of public education and social justice.


You’re also a published author of middle-grade books and essays on various topics, including leadership, financial literacy, and social justice. How has your experience at CUNY Law influenced your literary pursuits?

My time at CUNY Law has been a wellspring of inspiration for my literary pursuits. The resilience, diversity, and stories of courage I encounter daily have found their way into my writing, enriching my narratives with depth and authenticity. Literature, like law, is a powerful medium for storytelling and advocacy, and my experiences here have only fueled my passion for exploring these themes in my literary work.


As you reflect on your tenure at CUNY Law, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment lies in shaping the futures of countless students who have passed through our doors—especially those for whom a career in law seemed unattainable. Witnessing their growth, success, and the impact they go on to make in the world is profoundly rewarding. It’s a tangible manifestation of CUNY Law’s mission and a testament to the collective efforts of our community.


Looking ahead, what are your hopes for the future—for CUNY Lawand for yourself? 

I hope that CUNY Law will continue to make legal education more accessible and relevant to our time’s pressing social justice issues. A quest for lifelong learning and impact drives me. I plan to explore the intersection of law, education, and the arts through initiatives that foster dialogue and action on social justice issues. Engaging more deeply with community outreach, expanding my literary repertoire, and developing interdisciplinary programs are just a few of the ventures I am excited about pursuing. Additionally, I will become a hotelier as I open my first luxury Airbnb, the Toucan’s Nest, at Mahogany Bay in July and Gel’s Place in December.