Lifting as She Climbs

Sept. 23, 2022

Attorney. Entrepreneur. Educator. It would be impossible to fit Kristen Corpion, ’10, into just one category.

A Tampa native, Corpion, 33, owns two companies: CORPlaw, a Miami-based law firm aimed at helping modern entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and Sidebar, an innovative community group for lawyers. She also taught courses as an adjunct professor at Florida International University.

No matter the endeavor, Corpion has always been a powerhouse.

The proud daughter of a working single mother, Corpion began working at 15 to support her family. By 17, she graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of South Florida where she studied political science and anthropology.

Between balancing her heavy course load with her position as a student assistant in the office of former president Judy Genshaft, Corpion pursued a diverse array of extracurriculars on campus.

Corpion served as the chief justice of the Student Government Supreme Court, and as a USF Ambassador. She founded and served as the president of USF’s Mock Trial Program, which has competed in the American Mock Trial Association for more than a decade.

She was even featured in USF Magazine’s Fall 2009 issue for her participation in a selective summer program for undergraduates at the Harvard School of Law.

“As a first-generation student, I really saw college as an opportunity to work hard and achieve my goals,” she said. “So I tried to be involved in as much as I possibly could.”

As her term as chief justice came to an end, the Kristen Corpion Distinguished Service Award was established by the Student Government to honor her accomplishments.

Each year, the award recognizes an outstanding member of the Student Government Judicial Branch who, like Corpion, went above and beyond their regular duties to serve judiciary interests.

After earning her bachelor’s, she traveled across the U.S. to attend the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Upon graduating, Corpion returned to her home state to practice at a multinational law firm in Miami before launching her own firm, CORPlaw, in 2018.

Corpion credits her time at USF as being instrumental to setting her up for success — but it was more than 10 years later at a moot court competition when she realized she, too, had left an impact on her alma mater.

As Corpion served on a panel of judges evaluating students’ arguments, she was surprised to meet a USF student who had been a recipient of the honorific Kristen Corpion Distinguished Service Award.  

“I thought, ‘No way is this still going on,’” she said. “I honestly didn't think that my legacy would last, so I felt incredibly proud.”

As soon as she realized the endurance of her impact at USF, Corpion was determined to get involved.

She established a scholarship with the USF Foundation to accompany the Kristen Corpion Distinguished Service Award, so students who receive the award will also receive additional support in pursuing their education.

“This scholarship is really going to give hope to the students who receive it,” said the USF Alumni Association’s director of student relations LaToya Wider, who met Corpion through the first group of ambassadors she oversaw in 2008. “As a role model invested in their success, her belief in each student makes all the difference in their journeys.”

Corpion’s passion has always lived at the intersection of mentorship and law. As a student at USF, her educational journey was shaped by the giving of others, and she is determined to continue the trend.

Her time as a scholar in the Latino Scholarship Program at USF introduced her to the phrase “we must lift as we climb.”

“I remember sitting in the audience with my family the first year, getting that award and hearing those words,” said Corpion. “I thought it was a beautiful idea, and I have tried to apply it in my life.”

To Corpion, the words are more than a motto — they are a lifestyle.

“Supporting student success is something I've always done and will continue to do as I find those students who are open to mentoring,” she said.

But the cycle of using her own experience to uplift others is woven into the fabric of her everyday life.

Launching her own business was an entirely new experience for Corpion, who leaned on mentorship and learning opportunities to guide her through the process. In turn, CORPlaw provides counsel to small businessowners and entrepreneurs embarking on the same path.

Likewise, her courses at FIU were designed to help prepare students for the legal industry. Her company Sidebar expands the scope of opportunities for the legal community in South Florida through newsletters and networking.

Through this gift, she hopes to not only provide financial support to the outstanding students who embody her judicial values, but to continue this trend of mentorship by empowering them to seize greater opportunities on their academic and professional journey.

“Money is helpful, especially for those who need it and don't have it, but giving is never just about money,” she said. “There are so many ways to give, whether it’s mentorship, guidance or time.”

As CORPlaw prepares for expansion to Tampa, Corpion is eager to continue building relationships at USF, establishing her firm as a beacon of support for students in the Tampa Bay community.

“My experiences traveling across the country and then moving to Miami were exciting, but there is a certain level of missing home,” she said. “I’m excited to come back to my hometown and have a support system at USF again.”

As Corpion blazes new trails, she hopes to continue using her success to help uplift others.

“Continuing to give back to USF is so meaningful to me because someone provided that support for me in the past,” said Corpion. “I definitely want to be able to promote that support for students in the future.”

604,516,638

Endowment Assets Through FY22

16,367,602

Scholarship $ Raised FY22

34,247

Total Donors in FY22