Priority No. 1 for Jennie Azoulai upon arriving in C-U for her first year of law school in 1993? “To find a place where I could get my — sometimes thrice — daily caffeine fix."
“At the time, my beverage of choice was a double skim cappuccino. Espresso Royale quickly popped up on my campus map radar, as I used to frequent their cafés in undergrad at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,” says the Florida-based co-founder and president of moxie b2b and vice president for development at the Palm Beach Hedge Fund Association.
“Very soon, the Espresso Royale Café on Oregon Street became my go-to study haven. As one who likes some background noise and the option to have a little nosh or another jolt of caffeine, this place was the perfect spot for me to park myself. To boot, I met many new friends there, whom I chatted with upon taking study breaks.
“In particular, I gravitated towards interacting with multinational people from myriad academic disciplines. These casual acquaintances quickly turned into solid friendships, which involved numerous multicultural gatherings and camaraderie.
“Also, within the College of Law, I went out of my way to interact with as many people as possible. As an extremely social and gregarious individual, I have always thrived on connecting with people. And, as a pivotal by-product of our social interaction, I witnessed the proverbial breaking down of cultural barriers and stereotypes.
“Indeed, realizing that the U of I proved fertile ground for multicultural communication, it inspired me to take this initiative to the next level. So, as president of the newly revived Jewish Law Students Association, my colleagues and I launched a series of cross-cultural dialogues with the Black Law Students Association and the Christian Law Students Association.
“These dialogues proved significant as they shattered preconceived notions and biases, and paved the way for interaction and strengthened relationships. Motivated by these anecdotal experiences, I then decided to pursue a minor in political science, with a focus on Arab-Israeli relations.
“My collection of friends grew so diverse, that my law school graduation party seemed like a veritable United Nations’ social gathering. Countries represented included Jordan, Greece, Iran, India, Israel, Italy, Trinidad & Tobago and Turkey, to name a few.
“Though my grass-roots social justice initiatives at the U of I took place over 20 years ago, they continually serve as a source of inspiration.
“Last year, I had the privilege of participating in the Anti-Defamation League’s Glass Leadership Institute. The program involves, in part, training lay-leaders to serve as civil rights and social justice advocates. This year, I have the honor of serving as the co-chair of the 2017-18 GLI class.
“My days at the U of I taught me that even one interaction that transcends ignorance translates into a significant social justice gain.”