Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Law School Is Not For You

First, I would like to acknowledge the entry by my colleague OJ Salinas titled “Focusing When You’re Frustrated and, Potentially, Frightened: Some ASP Thoughts Following Charlottesville.” He expresses a part of my inability to be optimally productive and focused this Monday. I did not realize that my inability to focus was related to all the news I listened to and watched throughout the weekend. I hope that we can all take time to gather our thoughts and feelings, sit with our emotions, determine how we will manage our emotions and function effectively for our students.

Now, on to address what the title states. As students throughout the country prepare to and attend orientation programs, they are enthusiastic and anticipate the start of something they may have dreamt about their entire life or that grew out of an experience or an acquired passion. As I observe new students make their way through the building, stop by to say hi, and ask upper level students a number of questions, I smile because this marks the start of a new academic year. It also reminds me of the excitement I felt at the beginning of my law school career more than a decade ago. However, my journey to law school was not as smooth and exciting.

As a college student, I recall deciding that I wanted to attend law school and visiting the academic advisor responsible for students with a pre-law interest. This advisor was not very kind to me neither did she appear enthusiastic while engaging in conversation with me. She tried to deter me from pursuing my aspiration while providing several justifications, many of which were unfounded, as to why law school was not for me. I would later learn that this advisor also attempted to discourage several other young women of color from attending law school. How unfortunate! Without a strong support system which included each other, and our motivation to attain our dreams, we (young women of color and me) could have given up on our law school aspirations. But instead, we remained determined, asked questions, shared information, got involved with various pre-law organizations, and forged our own paths to our dreams. We would have never made it to law school otherwise. Words are powerful and can impact one’s journey in life in both positive and negative ways. If I did not know the person I am or had accepted the advisor’s perception of me, then my potential in life would have been significantly limited.

As Academic Support Professionals prepare for or start the new academic year, it is important that each of us considers what we utter to our students or how we communicate with them. We cannot put all students in a box simply because they exhibit similar behavior or characteristics. Every individual student is their own person with their own strengths, weaknesses, and life experiences which might dictate how they react to certain situations. We should encourage students but this does not mean providing them with a false sense of hope or confidence. We should be open to the differences in approach and process of all students as we might learn something along the way. We are partners with our students as they determine their path, build skills, and reach their goals. Even with the most confident student, negative words uttered to them or about them cloud their positive outlook, motivation, and determination. This is not to say that we should be silent about negative things but we should be strategic.

All the best to students embarking on their law school career! I would encourage you to listen to advice but also keep the advice in perspective. You are in law school because your institution believes that you are capable of being successful in law school but don’t let that go to your head because you still have to work hard. All the best to Academic Support Professionals as well (Goldie Pritchard)!

August 16, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Focusing When You’re Frustrated and, Potentially, Frightened: Some ASP Thoughts Following Charlottesville

Like many individuals throughout the country, I was saddened to see and hear what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. I am not sure I have the words to describe my thoughts and feelings related to this weekend. Or, maybe, I do. But, they are likely not suitable for this blog.

I’ll try to focus the rest of this post on a topic related to law school academic success. Surely, this weekend’s events don’t relate to our students’ academic success. Right? It’s not like this weekend’s events could impact our students’ abilities to focus on their law school studies. Right?

Let me refocus.  

Surely, I have other things that I should be thinking and worrying about . . . like, law school pre-orientation programs. I am running the first of our two voluntary pre-orientation programs for incoming 1Ls later this week. I will have worked with over 40% of our incoming 1L class before the start of orientation. These students are incoming 1Ls who have volunteered to participate in our Legal Education Advancement Program (“LEAP”). This program helps 1Ls transition to the study of law in a welcoming and supportive environment. Yet, these are also students who have likely been impacted in one way or another by the events in Charlottesville. After all, it doesn’t take much to see what happened on the news or to read something on the Internet. It doesn’t take much to see where the events took place and wonder whether a similar event could take place near you.

I am sure there are many other law school academic success professionals who should also have other things to be thinking and worrying about. They, too, may be getting reading for their pre-orientation programs. They, too, may be finalizing their syllabi, organizing conferences, and meeting with students. They, too, may be looking for ways to make the law school experience a positive and productive one for their students.

Surely, there are many things that should be preoccupying our minds. But, it’s often difficult to focus on what we should be focusing on when events like this weekend’s event in Virginia take place.

Surely, there are many things that our students should be thinking and worrying about as they prepare to start a new school year. For example, our 1Ls may be worrying about finding a place to stay, locating the bookstore, or figuring out how to brief a case. Our 2Ls and 3Ls may be finishing up summer work, finalizing resumes, or scheduling on-campus and callback interviews.

But, yes. It is difficult to focus on what we should and want to be focusing on when frustrating and, potentially, frightening events like the one in Charlottesville try to suck out all our energy, positivity, and goodwill. It is likely no different for our students—particularly our students of color. They may, similarly, find it difficult to focus on what they need and should be focusing on to be successful law students. Law school is hard. It is going to be even harder over the next few weeks.

Give your students some time to digest this weekend’s events. Be supportive and lend a listening ear. Yet, try to be realistic about the work that needs to be done in law school. If you find it difficult to engage students to change their approach to law school work because they are too worried or preoccupied with external events, like Charlottesville, you might try to reframe law school work in such a way that your students may be more motivated to read, study, and improve . . . to act.

For instance, despite my strong restlessness about this weekend’s events, I am going to try to attack this week’s pre-orientation program with vigor and hope—hope that the students that I will be working with will become successful lawyers who will help make this country a better place for all of us. Surely, that relates to law school academic success. (OJ Salinas)

August 14, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, News, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Being Different Doesn't Mean Being Irrelevant

I have been thinking about the wonderful, varied, and interesting lives our students bring to law school.

Each student comes to our law schools with a unique and authentic experience. Unfortunately, some of these experiences are sometimes deemed insignificant. The person who has lived the experience may be too anxious or ashamed to share it. Or, others around this person may be too afraid to acknowledge that their individual experiences may not be the only way to have experienced some “thing.”

Each student comes to our law schools with an individual story that can enrich our learning environment and augment the law school experience for other students. For example, how one student responds to the facts of a particular case or identifies with the rationale or policy supporting some legal authority may provide a different insight and promote more critical thinking than the most qualified professor alone. This insight and critical thinking begins to grow, encouraging others to be more willing to take their blinders off and expand their narrow view of an issue, or better yet, of the world.

As we prepare to start a new law school semester, let’s remember what makes each of us unique and authentic. Let’s embrace, not obscure, our differences. And let’s try to foster our students’ abilities to recognize and appreciate differences. Being different doesn’t mean being weak. Being different doesn’t mean being irrelevant. Being different doesn’t mean being unworthy of success. (OJ Salinas)

August 7, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Power of Listening

Listen-understand-act

I wrote in last week’s post of my trip to the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) conference in Minnesota. The conference theme focused on diversity and inclusion, which we know will also be the focus of our upcoming Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) conference in October.

My colleague, Alexa Chew, and I lead a discussion at ALWD on ways to make law schools more welcoming for everyone. We spoke about our experiences participating on our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force at UNC Law. We spoke about how allowing students to share their stories and listening to their stories can create more awareness and understanding of the diversity and inclusion problems that may be wounding your law school.

Alexa and I wrote a blog post in advance of our ALWD presentation in Jennifer Romig’s Listen Like a Lawyer blog. We wrote that most of us working at law schools want a more diverse and inclusive environment.  However, many folks working in our law schools are often unaware of what our students are experiencing during their law school tenure. So, schools get into a situation where they are trying to fix or work on a "problem" that they have not identified or know little about--or worse, that they may be inadvertently contributing to.

Alexa and I provided a few suggestions that could help more folks “get in the know.” The suggestions are relatively simple and inexpensive, but they may still have a huge impact on how students feel when they walk through the doors of your law schools. I suspect many of you in the ASP world are likely already doing many of the suggestions quite well! Keep it up!!! And encourage others in your law school to follow your lead!

The blog was circulated on Twitter last week here. You can also find the Listen Like a Lawyer blog here. (OJ Salinas)

Thank you for listening pic

July 31, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 24, 2017

ALWD Intro and Bar Exam Encouragement

This last week, I attended and participated in a diversity and inclusion conference hosted by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three-day conference was engaging and timely. And it included a thought provoking and informative plenary presentation on stereotype threat and implicit bias by fellow-ASPer, Russell McClain. Having seen Russell present before at various ASP conferences, I knew he would be a charming and enlightening presenter—and he certainly was! Congratulations, Russell! I know the ALWD attendees were impressed by your interactive presentation, and I am sure many of them will be reaching out to you in the future for additional ways to address stereotype threat and implicit bias.

I plan to write some more about the ALWD conference and its theme “Acknowledging Lines: Talking About What Unites and Divides Us” at a later date. But, for now, I wanted to spend a little time talking about what is likely on the minds of most academic success professionals and all the recent law school graduates—the bar exam.

Exam takers: We all know you have been working hard, and we believe in you. The next few days will be beyond tough and tiring. But, you have trained your mind and body for it.

Yes. You will likely second-guess yourself. Yes. You will likely face questions that you might not feel good about. But, you are also going to see and work with a lot of information that you do understand and have encountered many times during your bar preparation. Trust yourself. Read the questions carefully. Organize your essays. And don’t let those few questions that you might not know the answers to bring you down. You don’t need to get that A+ to pass. If you spend too much time focusing on the information that you don’t know or can’t remember, you may not leave yourself enough time or energy to show the bar graders what you do know. And you do know. A lot.

A few more things . . . remember to breathe and it’ll be over soon.

We look forward to welcoming you into the profession. (OJ Salinas)

Good Luck (2)

 

July 24, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, News, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on the NYT article "The Lawyer, The Addict"

The New York Times recently published “The Lawyer, The Addict”—a very compelling article about a tragic event. The story describes the death of an influential Silicon Valley attorney. The interplay between (1) addiction, stress, and mental health and (2) law school and the legal profession is referenced in an honest and, for many, eye-opening manner. The article has rightfully generated much discussion on the Internet, including a fascinating conversation on my colleague Rachel Gurvich’s Twitter feed. If you are looking for further insight about the article from a variety of faculty, practitioners, and students, I encourage you to check out Rachel's Twitter feed (@RachelGurvich). Much of the conversation can be found here.

There are many interesting points one can focus on from the NYT article. Perhaps, I’ll explore some other points in the future in the blog. For now, I’ll focus today’s blog on two points: (1) Larry Krieger’s work on subjective well-being; and (2) how hard it is for students to acknowledge that they may be suffering from a problem.

  1. Larry Krieger’s Work on Subjective Well-Being.

The NYT article interviewed Professor Larry Krieger and referenced his work "What Makes Lawyers Happy". As many of you know, Krieger’s work was an empirical study on “attorney emotional health” and “subjective well-being.” Part of Krieger’s findings and recommendations focused on shifting the definition of “success” for law students away from extrinsic rewards, like grades, journals, and high-paying jobs to more personal and intrinsic values and motivations.

I remember Larry Krieger's work was one of the first things that Ruth McKinney discussed with me when I arrived at UNC.  Since her retirement, we have tried to continue to incorporate the message of Krieger’s work into our pre-orientation program for incoming 1Ls.  We try to remind our students to remember the intrinsic reasons why they decided to come to law school—particularly during those times when they may feel overwhelmed, defeated, or unworthy. We also try to remind our students that “success” can mean many different things to different people and that there are many ways to “succeed” in law school. We often talk about these topics while disclosing some of our personal struggles and experiences from law school. This personal disclosure often helps build a foundation where we are better able to assist with the problem discussed in part two below.

  1. Acknowledging a Problem is often a Problem.

For those of us who work closely with students, the article’s story on how law school and the legal profession can change you—physically and mentally—is not a surprising tale. We know that the combination of stress, anxiety, and the competition for external rewards can create a very challenging and intimidating environment for our students. The environment can feel crushing and insurmountable when you add difficult finances, family issues, health concerns, implicit bias, or stereotype threat to the mix.

It is not uncommon for academic success folks to work with students who are facing some significant non-academic issues that impact their academic performance. But, these non-academic issues are often not easily identifiable. Let’s try to remember that it is often difficult for our students to acknowledge to themselves that they may be going through a very problematic time. Like anyone, they have pride. They have all been successful undergrads or had elite careers prior to law school. They don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student.

Since our students don’t want to think of themselves as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student, they will likely hesitate before seeking help because they don’t want others to see them as “failures” or “unworthy” of being a law student (and the mental health questions on the bar exam applications don't help either, but that's a topic for another day [if you are interested, my former colleague, Katie Rose Guest Pryal has a great piece here]).

Disclosing some personal vulnerability to someone else is an added challenge to an already stressful time in our students' lives.  Think about it: if it’s hard for you to acknowledge some potential weakness or flaw to yourself, do you think it will be easier for you to acknowledge that weakness or flaw to someone else? Now think about that someone else as a law professor or administrator. I know; it’s pretty scary. That’s why we, as academic support professionals (and others who work closely with law students), should try to practice good active listening skills and remain nonjudgmental, empathetic, and encouraging when we work with our students. It’s a difficult job. But, we are lucky to be able to do it. (OJ Salinas)

July 17, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, News, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Dream That Changed A Life

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman.

Graduation is always a very exciting time for me and an even more exciting time for the students but this year is a particularly bittersweet one for me. Why? Well, this 2017 graduation ushers in the official end of my role as Director of the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP). Of course, I will continue to work with students in my capacity as an academic support professional but my interactions with this very unique group of students I had the pleasure of working with over the past eight years comes to an end. LEOP was the conditional admission program offered at the law college which allowed some prospective students to participate in a summer program with the understanding that an achievement of minimum competency would allow them to gain admission to the law college. My participation in this performance based admission program entailed reviewing applications, co-coordinating the program, spending six weeks in the summer with these students, and monitoring their law school careers and bar exam performance. I saw these students manage stress, contend with new tasks, seek out help, and build community. I am grateful that students felt comfortable enough to reveal their fears and concerns, seek advice, and share successes and challenges. I recognize that it is very rare to be a part of the various aspects of a law student’s growth as a person and a student.

Monday was the end of the year celebration for the graduates of LEOP but also the celebration of the end of LEOP. In attendance were professors, staff, students, and alums who were brought together by this program. Suddenly, the atmosphere at the celebration quickly and surprisingly became highly emotional. The lunch gathering highlighted student accomplishments, contributions to the law college, and reflection on their journeys. It was quite amazing to note the impact one can have on a student simply by engaging with the student and choosing certain words to communicate with them. Students watch us, hear us, and make judgments about us based on what we say and do.

I am certain that my colleagues who work with alternative or conditional admissions programs share my sentiments about the students I work with in LEOP. While I may not remember the minute details about each student, I do remember each face, name, and a piece of information each one shared with me. These students dreamed impossible dreams and step by step are making their dreams become reality. They faced tremendous “I can’t” circumstances but stared them in the face and overcame those challenges. These LEOP students are about to place “J.D.” behind their names like many others before them and embark on the journey to becoming lawyers.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman. Changing the world begins with changing your immediate universe. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 26, 2017 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Be Confident

This is the week our students’ appellate briefs are due therefore I assumed that they would be unprepared for the directed study group meeting scheduled for this week. Instead of cancelling the meeting, I developed several activities with the materials students had covered thus far in their doctrinal course. The students were engaged and appeared to enjoy the activities. We highlighted areas they were unfamiliar with, areas they needed to work on, and areas of strength. Students worked in groups and one of the groups was composed of mostly male students and one female student. The female student held her own but one situation gave me pause. Her group was consulting before they buzzed in their answer. I heard her say the correct answer but her male counterparts disagreed and tried to persuade her otherwise. The group spokesperson stated the answer the majority agreed on but it was an incorrect answer. When they realized she had the correct answer, they were dumbfounded. I told the male students: “you should have listened to her” and I saw her smile. I was glad to validate her “correct” contribution and thought about the experiences of other female students.

At times, the law school environment can be a challenging place for female students for a variety of reasons including the fact that their abilities are sometimes underestimated and undervalued. This can reduce confidence in even the most confident person. There are several articles, studies, and news reports on the topic. However, I found an eight minute TEDx Talk which illustrates some of the challenges females face and how they can help themselves and other females find “The Confidence Factor.” Here is the link to “The Confidence Factor” by Carol Sankar.

Sankar suggests three things all women must do enact their confidence factor, challenging them to students, particularly female students:

1. Know the power of negotiation. If you know your worth before you leave the house; you now have the power of negotiate. Know your worth.

2. Seek a balance of support and mentorship. Support is the praise and comfort but not the facts. Mentorship is when people tell us the truth regardless of how we feel about what we hear; someone with the courage to push us and tell us the truth.

3. Your inner circle. Create an inner circle which includes one who likes you, one who can’t stand you, one who will tell the truth, and one who will tell you a lie. Also consider individuals not known to you. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 5, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

You Are Not An Island

Microaggression. Merriam Webster initially noted this word as “a term to watch” but added this word to the dictionary in February 2017. Microaggression as defined by Merriam Webster is “a comment or action that is subtly and often unintentionally hostile or demeaning to a member of a minority or marginalized group.”

How do we, academic support professionals, support our students who deal with microaggressions and aggressions that impact their ability to focus on academic work and impact their academic performance? I pose this question not because I have an answer but because this is a question I have asked myself lately.

It is quite difficult to be mentally present, engage with doctrinal content, and focus on tasks at hand while being concerned about what covert or overt actions will occur next or be directed towards you. The idea that one might have to contend with a racial or ethnic land mine at any time in a law school classroom or hallway is very daunting. A microaggressive comment from a professor during exam review can be devastating particularly when we encourage students to meet with professors to review exams and obtain feedback. There are a few articles addressing the impact of microaggressions on the recipient which highlight serious psychological effects.

Oftentimes, just reminding students of why they are in law school and encouraging them to not give up on a future legal career while having honest discussions about how they will manage these situations is usually a starting point. I spend time encouraging students to view these encounters as strengthening their abilities to deal with difficult situations while making them realize they are not alone. We discuss their feelings, anticipated accomplishments and consequences of each situation, and management of similar situations. I fundamentally view this process as an unwritten part of my job mainly because I am a person of color who was once a student of color. Silencing the loud voices of negativity when a student already has a few layers of self-doubt, and awakening and reminding students of the infinite reach of their abilities to view the world as a better place can be a struggle and long term process.

Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF). A term coined by William Smith in the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Society (2008) is “a theory attributed to the psychological attrition that People of Color experience from the daily battle of deflecting racialized insults, stereotypes, and discrimination.”i “RBF is the cumulative effect of being “on guard” and having to finesse responses to insults, both subtle and covert.”ii

How do we, academic support professionals, support our students who have been microaggressed when we are managing our own instances of microaggressions and aggressions but also contending with Racial Battle Fatigue? I pose this question because I am curious about how other academic support professionals manage such situations.

To make a very long story short, I had a week filled with incidents that would fit the classic definition of microaggressions and some I would characterize as aggressions coming from various aspects of life in the span of five days. I was anxious and somewhat distracted, which is out of character for me, unfocused, and unhappy but tried to be positive but all efforts failed. I faced each situation, responding in various ways I deemed appropriate, sought the support of my circle of trust, and moved on. I usually do a good job not showing my frustrations. In retrospect, I did not realize how much these encounters impacted me.

Something amazing happened the following week; I found joy, passion, and energy because of the students. I received a number of kind notes, nice words, positive feedback about programs and presentations, and other expressions of appreciation. For someone who is accustomed to problem-solving, affirming students, acknowledging wrong doings, validating feelings, empowering students, and checking-in to ensure that all is well, I did not quite know what to do with myself. It was like the universe suddenly said: “everything is great; this is just a step in your journey.”

I often believe that I am on an island even though there are so many people that surround me. No one knows the many battles fought and won within the confines of the four walls of my office, on the island. What often keeps me going are moments when students make comments to me such as; your words or actions made a difference and changed my outlook when I was on the precipice of giving up and filled with tears. This brings back memories of individuals who did the same for me during moments of immense pressure and self-doubt. (Goldie Pritchard)

iRacial Battle Fatigue’ Is Real: Victims of Racial Microaggressions Are Stressed Like Soldiers in War

iiChristopher Dorner and Racial Battle Fatigue

March 1, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Grooming Future Black Lawyers

In February, some celebrate Black History Month but at our law college we celebrate Diversity Week. Diversity Week is a celebration of diverse aspects of our community and raises awareness of various issues affecting our law college community, surrounding communities, and the legal profession.  Diversity week is celebrated for a full week in February and the theme this year is Pulse Check.  This week of events and programs has allowed me to reflect on my past experiences as a black law student and on the manner in which I engage with law students generally and black law students specifically.  I interact with black law students quite a bit by virtue of my community involvement and service to the law college.  I serve as advisor to the Black Law Student Association, volunteer with affinity groups, and serve as an ASP professional.  My black students hail from various states and countries and were raised in rural and urban settings.  They are first generation college and law students.  They are parents, immigrants, and children of immigrants.  They have various political and social affiliations.  In sum, I interact with a very diverse group of black law students.

Socio-cultural backgrounds do not always change the experiences they share which are similar to mine as a black law student.  When I encountered challenges I thought unique to me as a black law student, I had very few individuals I could turn to for help navigating these experiences so I am glad to help others.  I do not always have an answer but I can empower, encourage, and help students manage a variety of experiences.  Some students experience stereotype threat through verbal or non-verbal interaction in class or with classmates who sometimes perceive a black student’s academic ability and intelligence as inferior.  I have seen the brightest students have their confidence shaken by a comment or remark that attacks the core of who they are, minimizes what they bring to discussion, and delegitimizes the reasons why they are in the law school.  Other black students never encounter this and appear to have very positive experiences so it is important to recognize that everyone has unique experiences.

I am lucky to be at an institution where our Diversity Officer is readily accessible and her office serves as a place where several students of color converge to meet, build community, and support one another.  The Diversity Officer creates opportunities for students to discuss issues related to their experiences as students of color and possible challenges as legal professionals.  All I have discussed here might seem unrelated to academic performance but it does have a significant impact.  How students feel and the support networks they are able to develop are important.  We are here to help students achieve their dreams which entail completing their legal education and passing the bar exam.  We need to pay attention to the individual and each encounter is a possible transformative moment in the life of a student. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 15, 2017 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Student Motivation and MLK Day Celebration

At various points in a given semester, students find themselves unmotivated for a number of reasons.  Some of those reasons include managing financial pressures, dealing with academic challenges, feeling lonely, suffering from stress, and experiencing racism, sexism or some other “ism.” There are several articles and other sources that address intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and how to engage students.  However, I am always seeking innovative ways to encourage and support students.

Monday marked the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2017, an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.  Most institutions of higher education commemorate this day with a variety of activities.  Institutions have a variety of programs which include breakfasts, lunches, dinners, artistic expressions, marches, community service, and speeches.  Students attend the various programs but for others this is simply a day off and an opportunity to either rest or get ahead academically. 

This year, I am an advisor to a student group and based on my interactions with this group of students, it was imperative for me to find different ways to re-motivate these students.  Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a great opportunity to encourage them by drawing examples from his life and encouraging students to partake in at least one activity.  For students, there are a number of qualities and values they can draw from his life as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, an activist, a well-educated and accomplished man of color, his commitment to society, his ability to stay true to his convictions, and the ease with which he communicated, encouraged, and rallied those around him.  Reflecting on all that he was able to accomplish with the challenges of his time, we should all be courageous in the face of adversity and preserve our hopes, dreams and aspirations. (Goldie Pritchard)

 

 

January 18, 2017 in Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Pipeline for Law School Diversity

I recently returned from an excellent Legal Writing Institute One-Day Workshop at California Western which focused on diverse students in law schools. Leslie Culver of CWSL and I presented a session on Creating Models for K-20 Pipelines to Law School to Encourage Diverse Populations to Study Law. Inside Higher Ed posted an article on projections for diversity in high school graduates which may be of interest. The link is here. (Amy Jarmon)

December 13, 2016 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Women in the Law

If you have not had an opportunity to view this series, I encourage you to have a look-see: Women in the Law. (Amy Jarmon)

December 5, 2016 in Diversity Issues, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Foreign Students and Class Participation

Many of our law schools have exchange or L.L.M. foreign students enrolled in our courses. Our educational system (both undergraduate and legal) is very different from the educational backgrounds of many of these students. Adapting to the U.S. educational system is compounded by adapting to the U.S. legal system as well. It is not unusual for foreign students to tell me how very difficult the transition is for them.

I can empathize because I had to adjust to the British legal system and language when I cross-qualified as a solicitor for England and Wales - and I already spoke American English and came from a common law country! It was hard to think in two versions of English and make the mental switches to a very different common law legal system. Most of our foreign students are adjusting to an entirely different language and from civil law to common law!

A recent Inside Higher Education post addressed the participation in class aspect of the adjustment for foreign students. The post provides food for thought and practical tips as we try to help these students adjust to the very American emphasis on class participation. Read the post here: Helping Foreign Students Speak Up .     (Amy Jarmon)

September 25, 2016 in Diversity Issues, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Paula Lustbader: 30 years of Academic Support

Last week was the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Seattle University School of Law’s Access Admission Program, the Academic Resource Center, and Professor Emerita Paula Lustbader. I am an alumna of Seattle University and the few times I return to Seattle typically have something to do with Professor Lustbader. My cultural background dictates that I remember and honor those individuals who have paved the way for me. I look to them for guidance, wisdom, support, and history. For me, Professor Lustbader is one of these special individuals.

I started writing this entry prior to the celebration and surprisingly, the themes I identified aligned with the remarks and conversations at the celebration. The themes I had identified and those that emerged at the celebration included legacy, family/community, and paying it forward. I was excited to realize that I had it right but recognized that I could not include all of my observations.

In my opinion, Professor Lustbader is a pioneer of the Academic Support Movement. I imagine that very few formal academic support programs existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a student at the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University School of Law), Paula Lustbader had a desire to promote diversity at the law school and in the legal profession. She was recruited by Professor Emeritus David Boerner and together, Professor Boerner and student Lustbader designed and began to implement the various components of their program. Today, Seattle University School of Law boasts of one of the few true “Access Admissions Programs” in the country which is not only a testament of the institution’s commitment to social justice and diversity but also a reflection of the commitment of Professors Boerner and Lustbader to this program. I can assure you that the story is more amazing and exciting than this but you had to have been at the celebration to capture the full story. Please follow this link for Professor Lustbader’s 2010 article about this program: here

Professors can have a profound impact on the lives of their students particularly if they take the time to listen and pay attention to their students. Professors can sometimes perceive a student’s potential before the student can even conceive of her/his ability. This particularly happens when the learning environment lends itself for students to be their authentic selves which would indicate that trust has been established.

The presence of numerous former students and individuals who gathered to celebrate Professor Lustbader and the program is a testament to the positive impact the Access Admission Program and the Academic Resource Center have had on these students. In attendance were both students from the early years of the program and current students who just started their 1L year. Individuals flew in from as far as Hawaii, Texas, Michigan, and Florida just to list a few. Former teaching assistants, faculty, and staff who contributed in some way to the program were present. It was a joyous occasion that brought together individuals unified by the impact of two key individuals (Professors Boerner and Lustbader) and a shared experience with this program.   

I feel very privileged to have gotten to know Professor Paula Lustbader as a professor, supervisor, mentor, and friend. She discovered my potential early on and challenged and supported me even when I resisted.  I credit her for seeing the “Academic Support Educator” within me long before I thought of this as a career option. I look forward to the many amazing things she accomplishes in this next phase of her life.

The Anniversary Celebration has reenergized me, helped redefine my purpose, and led me to reassess my passion for the professional work I do. I am contemplating a number of things: What is our legacy as academic support professionals and educators?  Do we constantly reinvent the wheel simply because we want to put our imprint on something or do we recognize when something works?  Do we learn from those who came before us who fought and won the battles we now find ourselves trying to fight?  Are some of us young and so too proud to ask for help and too "all knowing"?  Are we truly an inclusive community that practices what we preach and embodies the ideals at the foundation of Academic Support Programs?  Is it at the very least helpful to assess our own hang-ups and challenges? These are all pertinent questions I am asking myself and hope to connect with like-minded individuals to explore them. (Goldie Pritchard)

September 14, 2016 in Academic Support Spotlight, Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students" Say Researchers Walton and Cohen

Big hat tip to Professor Rodney Fong at the University of San Francisco School of Law for his alert to this research article!

It's not too late to make a difference…a real difference…a measurable difference…to improve academic performance and health outcomes for minority students, as demonstrated by the published research findings of Dr. Gregory M. Walton and Dr. Geoffrey L. Cohen at Stanford University in their article "A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students."

Here's the scoop:

The researchers surmised that a brief intervention in the first week of undergraduate studies - to directly tackle the issue of belonging in college - might make a measurable impact with respect to academic performance and health outcomes for African-American students.  As background, previous research had suggested that a lack of a sense of belonging was particularly detrimental for success in collegiate studies. In its most basic form, the intervention was threefold.

First, the university shared survey results with research participating students, substanting that most college students "had worried about whether they belonged in college during the difficult first year but [they] grew confident in their belonging with time."  

Second, the participating students were encouraged to internalize the survey messages by writing an essay to describe "how their own experiences in college [in the first week] echoed the experiences summarized in the survey."  

Third, the participating students created videos of their written essays for the express purpose of sharing their feelings with future generations of incoming students, so that participating students would not feel like they were stigmatized by the intervention (but rather that they were beneficially involved in making the collegiate world better for future generations of incoming students).  

According to the researchers, surveys in the week following the intervention suggested that participating students sensed that the intervention buttressed their abilities to overcome adversities and enhanced their achievement of a sense of belonging.  And, the impact was long-lasting, even when participating students couldn't recall much at all about the intervention.  

The researches then used the statistical method of multiple regression to control for various other possible influences and to test for the impact of race.  As revealed in the research article, the intervention was particularly beneficial for African-American students in terms of both improvements in GPA and improvements in well-being.  In short, a brief intervention led to demonstrable benefits.

That brings us back to us ASPers!  

With the start of the school year for ASPers, we have a wonderful opportunity to engage in meaningful interventions...by sharing the great news about social belonging.  But, there's more involved than just sharing the news.  Based on the research findings, to make a real difference for our students, our students must not see themselves - in the words of the Stanford researchers - as just "beneficiaries" of the intervention...but rather as "benefactors" of the intervention.  

In short, our entering students must be empowered with tools to share with future generations what they learned about adversity, belonging, and overcoming…and how to thrive in law school.  

Wow!  What a spectacular opportunity…and a challenge…for all of us! (Scott Johns).

P.S. Here's the abstract to provide you with a precise overview of the research findings:  "A brief intervention aimed at buttressing college freshmen’s sense of social belonging in school was tested in a randomized controlled trial (N = 92), and its academic and health-related consequences over 3 years are reported. The intervention aimed to lessen psychological perceptions of threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. It used subtle attitude-change strategies to lead participants to self-generate the intervention message. The intervention was expected to be particularly beneficial to African-American students (N = 49), a stereotyped and socially marginalized group in academics, and less so to European-American students (N = 43). Consistent with these expectations, over the 3-year observation period the intervention raised African Americans’ grade-point average (GPA) relative to multiple control groups and halved the minority achievement gap. This performance boost was mediated by the effect of the intervention on subjective construal: It prevented students from seeing adversity on campus as an indictment of their belonging. Additionally, the intervention improved African Americans’ self-reported health and well-being and reduced their reported number of doctor visits 3 years postintervention. Senior-year surveys indicated no awareness among participants of the intervention’s impact. The results suggest that social belonging is a psychological lever where targeted intervention can have broad consequences that lessen inequalities in achievement and health."  Gregory M. Walton, et al, Science Magazine, 18 Mar 2011: Vol. 331, Issue 6023, pp. 1447-1451  

September 1, 2016 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What About The GOLD MEDAL STUDENT?

As an ASP educator, it is very important for me to work with other entities in the law school building and across campus to fully address student needs. For students to operate at an optimal level, many of their non-academic concerns need to be addressed as well. I often collaborate with our Diversity Services Office and our Office of Student Engagement on these matters. Recently, I had a very rich conversation with my colleague Mary Ferguson, Esq., Director of our Diversity Services Office. She asked me:  “What about the gold medal student, what do we do for them?” I was not quite sure what to say and wondered if this was a specific reference to the Olympics that I completely missed or simply an analogy. 

Given the puzzled look on my face, she explained that the “gold medal student” is the student of color who has excelled academically, the star student in every sense of the word whose academic achievement provided easy access to law school. This individual likely participated in every pipeline and support program since they were a child. This student excelled academically with the support services made available to them as a first generation, low income, and/or member of an underrepresented group. Many of these programs identify students early and include tutoring, structured programming, academic advising, activities, and access to employment and experiential learning opportunities. The “gold medal student” was sought out by the various programs but once they get to law school, they encounter new challenges.

Because “gold medal students” were so academically successful, they are grouped with other successful students based on GPA and LSAT. They are not at academic risk so they are not a part of programs tailored to support students characterized as such.  They may also miss out on services and resources available to students of underrepresented groups or simply not avail themselves of these services. “Gold medal students” might only access services available to the student body as a whole, if at all.  These students might need the same guidance, support, and structure the academically at risk students benefit from but don’t receive it because they are not a part of that group. This distinction might impact the students’ ability to excel academically because had they participated in those programs, it may have propelled them to success.  These students might also have difficulty acclimating because they are often one of very few persons of color at their institution.  We often wonder why a “gold medal student” might underperform academically when compared to their peers with similar entry credentials and when all statistical indicators show that they should perform comparably.  The “gold medal student” becomes nothing more than an honorable mention.

This conversation really got me thinking. How do we identify or seek out this student? How do we provide them with the support they need which is different from what the general population needs?  As I thought more, I realized that I have worked with “gold medal students” but it was typically after they had a rough first semester or first year.  They were typically the students who would do what worked for them at their undergraduate institution and not make the adjustments for law school.  They were the students who needed more structure and needed more purposeful interactions which were readily available at their undergraduate institution but they now had to seek out in law school.  Once a good system is in place for these students, they are students who excel academically.  (Goldie Pritchard)

August 28, 2016 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Diversity and Inclusion: Harvard to Change Law School Seal

Two articles of interest: A summary of the dispute and recent action in The Harvard Crimson  An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education regarding a committee recommendation that Harvard Law change its seal after student protest because of its connection to a slave-owning family: Harvard Law School Seal

March 11, 2016 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 29, 2016

LSSSE Upcoming Report

Below is a press release from Aaron Taylor, Director of LSSE, regarding the upcoming report release:

On March 7, the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) will release its latest annual results: How a Decade of Debt Changed the Law Student Experience.  The report analyzes law student debt trends during the 10-year period, 2006 to 2015.  The report also explores the nature and sources of law student stress. An advanced copy of the report is attached to this email.  [Editor's Note: Not included here in the Blog posting because incompatible with Typepad. Check your inbox to see if you got a press release email with a copy.]
According to Aaron N. Taylor, director of LSSSE and assistant professor of law at Saint Louis University School of Law:
“While we are all well aware that law student debt has increased significantly over the past decade, this year’s LSSSE annual results provide a nuanced view of these trends.  Both the extent of the increases and the uneven manner in which they have been distributed among students are concerning.  The data strongly suggest that while law school is more expensive across-the-board, the bulk of the increased costs is being born by students in the least favorable positions to incur them.”  
Noteworthy findings from the report include:
Overall Debt Trends:
Over the 10-year timeframe, increasing proportions of LSSSE respondents reported expecting high law school debt.  In 2006, 32% of respondents expected to incur more than $100,000 in debt during their law school matriculation.  In 2015, that proportion was 44%.  (Page 10)
Debt and Institutional Sector:
In 2006, only 11% of LSSSE respondents attending public law schools expected debt of more than $100,000; by 2015, this proportion had almost tripled to 31%.  Among private school respondents, the proportion increased from 38% in 2006 to 50% in 2015. (Page 11)
Debt and Race:
In 2006, there were only marginal racial and ethnic differences in expectations of more than $100,000 in debt.  By 2015, 61% of black respondents and 56% of Latino respondents expected debt at this level, compared to about 40% of white and Asian respondents.  (Page 12)
Debt and LSAT score:
In 2006, 16% of respondents with the LSAT scores of 155 or below expected to owe more than $120,000—the same proportion as those with higher LSAT scores.  By 2015, however, the proportion for the 155-or-below group was 37%, almost double the 20% proportion of the higher-LSAT group.  (Page 13)
Debt and Satisfaction:
In each survey year, respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 were noticeably less likely to respond favorably to LSSSE satisfaction questions.  In 2015, 79% of these respondents had favorable views of their law school experiences, compared to 88% of those expecting no debt. 
In 2015, 74% of respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 stated they would attend the same law school again, compared to 87% of those expecting no debt.  This 13-percentage point difference was the largest among the survey years. (Page 15)
Law Student Stress:
About three-quarters of respondents reported that concerns about academic performance and academic workload were sources of high stress and anxiety.  More than half of respondents indicated that concerns about job prospects and finances (including student debt) were sources of high stress and anxiety.  (Page 17)
Higher expected debt was associated with higher stress and anxiety.  More than half of respondents who expected to owe more than $80,000 reported experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety during the school year, compared to 41% of those who expected no debt.  (Page 19)
In 2015, 70% of respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 reported high levels of stress relating to finances and student loans, compared to only 9% of respondents expecting no debt.  (Page 19)
How a Decade of Debt Changed the Law Student Experience will be available for download on March 7 at http://lssse.indiana.edu/.  Questions and media requests should be forwarded to Aaron N. Taylor at ataylo65@slu.edu.
 
 
Aaron N. Taylor 
Assistant Professor of Law
Saint Louis University School of Law
Director, Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE)
Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research

100 N. Tucker | Suite 950 | Saint Louis, MO 63101 

February 29, 2016 in Diversity Issues, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Death of Justice Scalia and the Future of Affirmative Action

For those who are following the Fisher case, the following article from The Chronicle of Higher Education may be of interest: Antonin Scalia's Death Probably Won't Affect Fisher

 

February 28, 2016 in Diversity Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)