Tamunoboma “Dominion” Fenny was supposed to be a doctor – it’s what she believed for a long time, and what her parents had hoped.
“But it turns out that I really, really like the law, and I really enjoy learning about the law,” said the newly-minted president of the Tulane Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA), who also is a third-year Tulane Law student.
With a chuckle, Fenny adds, “I think my parents are still holding out hope.”
But no, med school is not in the cards, said Fenny, her laugh so infectious she owns the room. At the moment, Fenny is consumed with her new leadership role at GAPSA, a distinction that makes her the second Black woman from Tulane Law School in consecutive years to lead the organization. Last year, Ania Smith (L’23), a former president of the Tulane Black Law Student Association (BLSA) decided to run for the presidency of GAPSA, and the unofficial law-school-to-GAPSA-leadership pipeline launched.
“It is so wonderful to see the strong Black female leadership of our students,” said Interim Dean Sally Richardson. “We have an amazing group of students here at Tulane Law School, and to watch future leaders of tomorrow like Dominion and Ania take charge of University-wide programs like GAPSA really demonstrates how talented our students are.”
Fenny is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and has spent both of her law school summers in the legal departments of military centers (Elgin Air Force Base and Langley Air Force Base), receiving the Air Force Achievement Medal at Eglin. She is committed for seven years with the Air Force post-graduation.
“Oh, I will be a JAG,” she says, acknowledging that graduation is just around the corner.
Fenny was born in Nigeria and emigrated to the U.S. as a child – both her parents are attorneys in their own right.
“Although Nigeria is a common law country just like the U.S., my parents had to sit for the bar again, and they did.” Immigration law is now one of their primary practice areas.
That’s just a hint of her roots – which are deep and strong and inextricably tied to sacrificing much for a future. Her parents, she said, practice immigration law because, “It’s a complicated system and there is no one pathway that works for everyone. We experienced that firsthand in our journey to citizenship.”
It wasn’t until she was 18 that Fenny officially took the oath to become a U.S. citizen. She went to Auburn for her undergraduate degree, finishing with a bachelor’s in political science and aerospace studies, all the while serving in Air Force ROTC.
She knew law school was her goal -- so she spent a summer working for her father, who didn’t for a second coddle his daughter.
“He was pretty honest and said, ‘I don’t have time to train you, but here is this course that will help you,’” said Fenny.
The course was a certification as a paralegal in immigration law. It was fortuitous, though, because this year, Fenny has exactly the kind of training she needs to be a student attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Tulane.
Her path to Tulane Law was a lot bumpier than she had hoped. She applied and was waitlisted, “but I knew this is where I wanted to go, so I refused to get off the waitlist. I just held out until the very end and a week before (1L) Orientation, I was accepted. I was so happy.”
She arrived in New Orleans in late August to learn that much of the off-campus student housing was claimed. She moved in briefly with friends of her family, even as Hurricane Ida was barreling towards the Louisiana coastline. She spent the first six weeks of law school back home in Alabama, taking courses remotely, as Tulane recovered from the damage Ida left in its wake.
But in “The World According to Dominion Fenny” there is no giving up. She returned to law school that first year and found a roommate and a home. She embraced her law school and Tulane experience, joining the Sports Law Society and becoming a TEDx Speaker during her first year of law school and serving as Black Law Student Association (BLSA) Secretary and a legal intern for the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal during her second year. She is currently a graduate assistant at Tulane’s Title IX Office and an intern at Southeastern Louisiana Legal Services.
As for GAPSA, she wants to see the organization not only embrace its social role – it is known for two big student mixers, one each semester -- but also do more with helping graduate students on professional development and service to the community.
To that end, GAPSA is hosting a big headshot event – where students can sign up for professional photographs – and she is working to arrange a graduate and professional student day of service.
Fenny has some advice for students across campus, but especially those who are in the graduate ranks and want to take on leadership roles.
“Do it scared, then trust the process,” she said. “Anything I have done at Tulane is something I’ve first been afraid to do. I’ve always done it anyway, and it has always worked out because I have an amazing support system praying for me and supporting me. Working beyond the fear has been the single thing that has moved me forward in my career and will hopefully continue to move me forward in life.”