Graduate Profile: Dahnika Short, L’22

Background in health care inspired student to attend law school

A passion for health care ultimately inspired non-traditional law student Dahnika Short to attend the University of Kansas School of Law.

After graduation, she will continue her journey through a clerkship with Hon. Toby Crouse, L’00, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

Short’s road to KU Law looked different than most of her peers. She earned her first undergraduate degree in life sciences from Kansas State University in 2011. Short then went on to earn a nursing degree from the KU School of Nursing in 2015 before deciding to attend law school a few years later.

Dahnika Short
Dahnika Short, L’22

“I had a great career as a nurse,” said Short. “Health care is something I am still very passionate about.”

After earning her first undergraduate degree, Short served as a health education volunteer in the Peace Corps, working in Moldova. She helped provide seminars to locals on topics such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, STI prevention and domestic violence.

 “That experience only strengthened my desire to be in the medical field,” Short said.

After returning from the Peace Corps, Short moved back to Kansas City to begin her education in nursing. Halfway through training, she realized she did not want to work in the traditional hospital setting.

“I was much more interested in the bigger picture. How do people access health care? What are the barriers? How do race and socioeconomic status play a role? What about access to healthy foods and education?” Short said.

Still, Short thought she should experience working life as a nurse. She found employment at a small clinic, where she could discuss “holistic wellness and barriers to accessing health care with her patients.” But law school never left her mind.

After seriously considering how law school could deepen her knowledge about policies that impact health care, Short knuckled down and began studying for the LSAT. After performing well on the entry exam, she knew now was the time to tackle law school or regret it forever.

“I chose KU Law because it felt like home,” said Short. “When touring, I instantly felt welcomed by everyone. I was also impressed by the alumni connections.”

Even as a busy mother, Short stayed active with extracurriculars during her time at Green Hall as a Dean’s Fellow, member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council and even helped develop a new student organization – the Non-Traditional Law Students Association.

Shorts says her most impactful law school extracurricular was as a comment editor for the Kansas Law Review.

“While it was a lot of work, I enjoyed bonding with and working alongside incredibly smart and kind people,” Short said.

She was not just motivated by her peers during law school. Short also found inspiration and support within her professors, three of which stood out.

She enjoyed learning from Professor Tom Stacy over the course of four classes throughout law school.

“Professor Stacy brings a thought-provoking, in-depth perspective to criminal law – my favorite area. He really made me think of the why behind criminal law,” said Short.

Short praises Professor Kyle Velte for her ability to reach students.

“Professor Velte did an excellent job of breaking down complex topics (hello, hearsay) and truly cares about her students,” said Short.

The Legal Aid Clinic brought Short together with another favorite – Professor Melanie Daily.

“She was an excellent mentor – incredibly well versed and knowledgeable in the law with equal amounts of empathy for her clients,” said Short. “Professor Daily also deeply cares about and is supportive of her students.”

Short feels ready to start her new career after three years of preparation and the support of many Jayhawk lawyers.

“I’m so glad I went to law school,” said Short. “It was a long road to get here, but it was totally worth it.”

Armed with her new education, Short looks forward to the future.

“I am most excited to challenge myself, to be an advocate and to work to ensure that systems operate more equitably,” Short said.

-By Sydney Halas

This post is the fifth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia BlackParker Bednasek, Cortez Downey and Ashlyn Shultz. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.