Wednesday, March 8, 2023

AASE as Building a Community of Scholars and Advocates


This post is third in the series discussing the origins of the Association of Academic Support Educators, founded in 2013. Written by Louis Schulze. 

My first academic support conference was in Miami, hosted by UM Law’s legendary Joanne Harvest Koren.  I had been hired for my first ASP position maybe a month earlier, so I had no idea what to expect at an LSAC Training.  Always abiding by the adage of “better to be overdressed than underdressed,” I brought a suit.

I was overdressed. 


But who could have predicted that Brooks Brothers would not work well in Miami in late May?

While removing my tie in a futile effort to blend in, I started to realize that a gathering of academic support educators came with a unique feel.  In place of academia’s penchant for contrivance, I found authenticity.  In place of academia’s tendency to instill impostor syndrome, I found a community fostering growth.  My entire experience at that first conference can be summed up by my memory of being forcibly yanked onto a dance floor jam-packed with a sea of my new ASP colleagues participating in a salsa dancing lesson.  I cannot imagine a better introduction to what “ASP-ish” means. 

Over time, as more law schools implemented academic support programs, the LSAC trainings grew larger.  As they grew, one could hear yet more voices echoing the concerns we all seemed to feel.  Coming from what was then a one-person ASP, it was a revelation for me to hear others describing the exact frustrations I experienced in my work but could not quite explain to non-ASP colleagues.  It became clear that many members of our community had stories to tell, and those stories had a lot to do with how unnecessary obstructions got in the way of supporting students’ success. 

As a result, one of the reasons why AASE came about was to create a space for scholarship and status advocacy.  Because those issues were understandably outside the scope of LSAC trainings, AASE provided a venue for our community to crowd-source ideas that could be shared externally so as to move the field forward and reposition academic support educators into circumstances more likely to lead to success.  For instance, an early venture included conversations with the ABA regarding what would become Interpretation 501-1 of Standard 501, providing that the effectiveness of a school’s academic support program would be a factor in assessing compliance with admissions standards.  Scholarly work at that time analyzed previously unchartered territory on crucial topics like stereotype threat in law school and equity in licensure.  AASE provided an environment for scholarly presentations during which writers could sharpen their ideas through discourse with others in the field. 

Ten years later, our ASP community has built a canon of scholarship that has defined not only the details of what we do but also the ways law schools can do better.  When I began teaching in the field, the number of for-credit academic support courses could be counted on one hand, and bar support courses were impermissible by rule.  But through the scholarship and advocacy of so many AASE members, these and other obstacles have faded.

May we never stop salsa dancing.


(If you want to find someone that will drag you out on to the dance floor, both literally and metaphorically, join AASE for the 10th Annual Conference in Santa Clara - Registration now open!

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