Faculty & Staff Achievements

Raising Up: Doris Cheng ‘98 Funds IAP Scholarships

by Sarah Cronin

Throughout her legal career, alumna Doris Cheng ‘98 has made it her mission to amplify more voices from under-represented groups.

“For so long I felt like every time I went into a courtroom, there were biases that I had to overcome… age, race, and sex,” Cheng said. “There's always a feeling like, ‘Oh, they're going to listen to the older male partner from my office before they listen to me, how can I make myself be heard?’” 

Earlier this month, Cheng donated $100,000 to USF Law in support of her mission. The gift will fund scholarships for students with financial need participating in the law school’s Intensive Advocacy Program (IAP), a two-week immersive program that trains law students in trial technique and strategy.  

For more than 31 years, IAP has been instrumental in shaping the trajectory of students’ careers, including Cheng’s, who is a shareholder at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and co-director of IAP.  

Cheng decided to contribute in this way because she says, “You can't raise up other people unless you give them what they need. And scholarships are a necessary resource." 

Nichelle Holmes ’10, a Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County, said “Enrolling in IAP turned out to be the single most pivotal decision of my academic journey. The foundation I received from IAP has played a crucial role in my success as a deputy DA.” 

For many students, it is Cheng’s leadership that makes the IAP experience so potent.  

“She challenges everyone and ignites that fire in each of her students to advocate with conviction. And most significantly, she embodies the importance of human compassion and empathy throughout a legal representation,” said Danielle Potestio ’20, an associate at Burke, Williams, and Sorensen. 

In recognition of Cheng’s dedication and numerous contributions to students and the community, the School of Law has named her their 2023 Alumna of the Year, an honor she says she never would have anticipated. 

“My mom cleaned houses while I was growing up. My dad was a fantastic cook at the Iron Pot Restaurant…there was no concept of making an impact greater than within my own family,” Cheng said. “To be able to touch the lives of people around the world and be touched by those lives is beyond anything that I imagined.” 

Cheng is grateful to the USF community for expanding her opportunities and showing her the full potential of what her life could be.  

“It reminds you, that there's no reason that you should ever rely upon only yourself. You should always seek out your community and let them raise you up too,” Cheng said.