Monday, January 23, 2023
It is that time of year when ASP folks are inundated with students who have had an epiphany about their study habits -- usually brought on by grades that were less than stellar. It is also the time of year when students with grades that our law school is concerned about are told to come visit ASP. These students all have a few Cs and have been told that this GPA might not be good enough to continue after the first year. They are frightened, chastened, and often need the tissues and the chocolate I've stocked for this season. I have a general plan for working with these students-almost a template: go over the bad exams, let's see where the deficiencies are (not phrased that way!), and let's get started with building the skills to avoid them for the next set of exams. If the issue is output (lack of IRAC, multiple choice questions that were confusing, etc., time), I get them started on practice questions ASAP. If it is input (didn't outline, didn't study efficiently, missing classes, other distractions), I get them started on building better habits and practice. If it was a mental health issue, or some outside trauma, I ask if they are in a better place, make sure that they are getting help, and then send them to practice (but very gently). I'm sure you do something very similar. This is the bread and butter of ASP. Time-proven technology that is individualized for each student.
But (you knew there would be a but), what do you do with the students who come to you with very good grades? Recently, before I even got a chance to email the 1Ls who will be notified that they should be seeing me, another first year student asked to meet with me to discuss improving their grades. Their grades were: A, A-, A-, and the dreaded B+. I had some good advice about improving their social life--i.e., don't complain to anyone else about these grades--that I kept to myself. I also did not want to dismiss the student with a "those are great grades, whatever you are doing, keep doing it." Although, I will admit this was my first thought along with, "do you realize that there are students here who would kill for those grades????" All I could think of was that Michael Jackson song, "[k]eep on, with the force, don't stop. Don't stop 'til you get enough1." Sigh.
Yet, I would never turn away a student who asked for help-even if my knee jerk reaction was that they did not need it. So, I followed the protocol-I told them to go talk to the professors and ask what was good, what might have been better on the exams, and then to come back to me so we can start working on those things. I warned them that the professors might be seeing students with lower grades first so that they would need some patience. I'm guessing I'll see them again by late February-hopefully.
In a way, I respect this student's drive, and in another way, I am a little concerned about it as well. So rather than act as a surly gatekeeper to the ASP resources in this situation, I thought it might be a good idea to keep an eye on this student to remind them every now and then that the goal is learning. I fully understand that if their grades are worse in the spring, I might be considered the reason.
Academic support is more than academic. We all know it, so while this student may not need academic help, they do seem to need support. So, if I am their personal Stuart Smalley2 who helps them see that they are good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, they belong in law school, maybe that will be enough.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
NECASP IS HAVING THEIR ANNUAL ONE DAY CONFERENCE (VIA ZOOM) ON DECEMBER 9TH, 2022. Below is their request for proposals:
RFP Deadline Extended to November 8
Request for Proposals: Presentations and Scholarly “Works in Progress” New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP) Conference Friday, December 9, 2022, 10am-3pm ET via Zoom Hosted by the Suffolk University Law School (Zoom link to follow)
NECASP will be holding its annual one-day conference online this December. Our topic this year is “Strengthening Our Core: Attaining Equity for Academic Support and Bar Professionals.” We will gather online to share and explore ideas with ASP colleagues on issues surrounding the attempts towards attaining parity in status in academia for ASP and Bar Professionals.
We welcome a broad range of proposals –from presenters in the New England Region and beyond –and at various stages of completion –from idea to fruition. Please note that we may ask you to co-present with other ASP colleagues depending on the number of proposals selected.
If you wish to present, the proposal process is as follows:
- Submit your proposal by 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, via email to Philip Kaplan at email@example.com
- Proposals may be submitted as a Word document or as a PDF 3. Proposals must include the following:
a. Name and title of presenter
b. Law School
c. Address, email address, and telephone number for presenter
e. If a scholarly work in progress, an abstract no more than 500 words
f. Media or computer presentation needs
4. As noted above, proposals are due on November 8, 2022. The NECASP Board will review the proposals and reply to each by November 17, 2022.
If you have any questions about your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact one of us, and we look forward to seeing you at our conference!
2022-23 NECASP Board Members:
Chair: Phil Kaplan, Associate Professor of Academic Support Suffolk University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice-Chair: Brittany Raposa, Associate Director & Professor of Bar Support Roger Williams School of Law, email@example.com
Treasurer: Danielle Kocal, Director of Academic Success The Elizabeth Haub School of Law / Pace University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary: Erica Sylvia, Assistant Director of Bar Success & Adjunct Professor of Law University of Massachusetts School of Law, email@example.com
Sunday, May 29, 2022
Did you know that the collective noun for a group of magicians is an “illusion?” I believe that Academic Support Professionals are the magicians of law school academics, not because we engage in sorcery, but because we do so much hard work behind the scenes that it seems like things just happen.
Last week, I was lucky to be able to share the tricks of the trade (with the best community of colleagues ever!) at the 9th Annual AASE Conference at the lovely St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas and on Zoom! I already knew that ASP folks are the hardest-working, kindest, and most generous people. I was also aware that we are supreme innovators. In short, the brain power in the sessions at our conference could have provided enough energy for the entire state of Texas. And it would have been a clean, renewable source of power!
It was amazing to be in the company of people who truly understand the work—and the flip side of doing so much important work often without having job security or recognition. I know that I am extremely fortunate that my law school is supportive and offers long-term contracts with options for more security, as well as funding for scholarship and conferences. Yet, academic support and bar prep are often seen as—oh wait, actually, we are often not seen at all…
At a faculty meeting last week, after what I consider a big win that added a DEI course graduation requirement, we moved on to an agenda item that tangentially dealt with tenure policy. During this discussion, a tenured, doctrinal faculty member referred to people who had our (ASP and other non-tenure track) faculty status as “faculty with a small f.” As in, essentially, lower case “f” faculty should very clearly not be allowed to vote on tenure policy changes. Yes, I had a big F reaction to that. That was more than just rain on my parade, it was a full-on blizzard: cold and windy. Following my glorious moment in the sun, I was returned to my cubby crumpled and dirty like a kindergartener’s lunchbox after recess.
It is moments like this that make a national conference of all the law school thaumaturges even more imperative for the survival of our profession. We need to work together to collectively ask that the curtain be pulled back so that our doctrinal colleagues can see the work that is often going on out of their sight. There is no magic in what we do, just a lot of hard work that should be transparently visible.
A huge thank you to Afton Cavanaugh and the team at St. Mary’s for solving the huge logistical puzzle that this hybrid conference must have presented!! It was glorious and I am truly enriched by the endless magnificence of this community. I am already looking forward to next year’s 10th annual AASE conference at Santa Clara Law.
And finally, did you know that the collective noun for a group of doctrinal professors is known as a “pomposity?”
 Texas is huge! I knew it was big before, but I really had not understood it until I was there.
 A presumptively renewable contract-but not tenure.
 I was the leader on this effort, and I am crazy excited that it really happened!
 Silently-but I am originally from the Bronx. I’ll just leave it at that.
 Those who don’t already know-there are always going to be allies in every school!!
 May 23-25, 2023-save the dates!
Monday, January 10, 2022
When I was in high school, and college and law school, I would tell my parents when I was nervous about exams like SATs, midterms, finals... And they would always answer, “you’ll be fine.” I’m not complaining about the faith they had in me, but even after I explained the reason for my extra concern, the answer remained the same. I was dismissed. It didn’t help me feel better in any way and certainly didn’t help me prepare for what was ahead.
Grades were released last week at my law school, and it has been…a lot. I can hear a lot of you nodding in agreement right now. In between extremely interesting AALS sessions, I spent hours speaking with students towards the end of the week. And like most of you, I met with students at all positions on the grade spectrum from, “I don’t know how I got an A-“ to “Am I going to get dismissed?”
Our list-serv has also been full of amazing emails and messages we send students to get them through this time-all starting with the basic idea that “your grades do not define you.” I wholeheartedly agree that students are more than their grades and that their grades do not define them. Collectively, in the next few weeks, we will help students make study plans, assure them that they have more exam experience going forward, and remind them that we are here to help. We will give advice to talk to professors about exam performance, diagnose the issues or types of questions that plagued their exam, and offer practice materials. We will take action.
Yet, there is an elephant in the room: how can I tell students that they are not their grades and at the same time fail to acknowledge the reality that until they have some legal work experience, they may, in fact, be defined by their grades. I am telling them to transcend the grades at the same time I am helping them make plans to get better ones. They know, and they know that I know, that potential employers do care about class rank even I don’t agree with that as a bright line rule for granting interviews (and trust me, “don’t agree” is an extremely diluted way to express how I feel about that). I worry that I am being dismissive if I say it shouldn’t matter-or even worse-misleading some students to blame circumstances (or people) they cannot control for the grades they received. I absolutely know that some students are laid low by circumstances outside of their control (I had a student whose house burned down last year), but frequently students need to own (or adversely possess) the bad grades to make positive changes.
I think some of the hardest work I have done these past few days (and I assure you, my dance card is full today as well) is speaking to students who need to plead their case to a committee to be allowed to stay in law school (after one seemingly catastrophic semester). There is, per our academic rules, a presumption of dismissal (albeit rebuttable). We advise our students to share all the distractions, traumas, and circumstances that led to this situation. No doubt, this pandemic will be the underlying cause of trauma and academic distress long after we box up our masks and hope they get moldy in the basement from non-use. More importantly, students need to tell the committee about the plans they have made to deal with these issues. I remind them to tell the committee that they are taking control over what is in their power to control and talk about their plans to ask for help when what is uncontrollable becomes too much. I assure them that asking for, and receiving, help is a sign of maturity and resilience-not weakness. And we should not forget that the next time these students take an exam, they will have an extra layer of stress added because they need to do better and are still frightened by how things went last time.
I will definitely tell students that things are going to be okay (and more often than not, they will be)-but it cannot be the only thing I tell them. I know students need to hear those words in my voice, but I also need to be certain that they will benefit from hearing it more than I will.
 Thank you to Melissa Hale, Susan Landrum, and Kirsha Trychta!
 I don’t even agree with ranking them, but that will be another post.
Monday, December 13, 2021
Last Friday’s NECASP Conference on Fostering and Maintaining Inclusive Communities was amazing. It was well organized and carefully curated. I left with some amazing ideas of how I can make my ASP welcome mat larger and make students who cross that threshold feel that we are a caring community. Community=success! A special thank you to the NECASP executive team: Amy Vaughan-Thomas, Brittany Raposa, Phil Kaplan and Danielle Kocal for a wonderful conference. I have often said, and I stand by it, that the ASP community is the kindest community in law school academics: to our students, our schools, and to each other. The sheer talent and intellect of my colleagues is breathtaking.
This morning I walked my dog, Leo, super early because we were escorting my son to before school physical therapy (he hurt his arm when he and his bicycle encountered a curb back in the summer and wrestling practice made it hurt more). My husband is also away on business in (what looks like heavenly) Portugal and he had previously been doing this walk. I will add that I also spent the night with this dog who would not go downstairs, takes up as much space as a human (he weighs 40 pounds, so that was surprising), and doesn’t smell as wonderful as you would hope. The ultimate chutzpah was when he barked at me to pick him up and put him on the bed because he is too short. And judging from the sentence before that, you can imagine how much resistance he got from me, and besides, the cats were unwilling to help. In any event, there I was: tired, cold, and entirely not in Lisbon when Leo and I saw this:
Leo and I continued on our walk under this cotton candy sky until we were almost home. As we passed the post office, we saw this bit of pink sharpied advice:
There is no greater ASP hook here except maybe we all need to be reminded to look around and make connections as we make our way through this season of grading and early darkness.
Friday, October 1, 2021
This weekend, I attended the Central States Law Schools Association Scholarship Conference and ASP was well-represented. each speaker gave a talk highlighting their current works and sought feedback from the audience of faculty members. Here is just a sampling of the ASP presentations:
Cassie Christopher, Texas Tech School of Law
A Modern Diploma Privilege: A Path Rather Than a Gate
Michele Cooley, IU McKinney School of Law
But I’m Paying for This!: Student Consumerism and Its Impact on
Academic and Bar Support
Danielle Kocal, Pace Law School
A Professor's Guide to Teaching Gen Z
Blake Klinkner, Washburn School of Law
Is Discovery Becoming More Proportional? A Quantitative Assessment of
Discovery Orders Following the 2015 Proportionality Amendment to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26
Leila Lawlor, Georgia State College of Law
Comparative Analysis of Graduation and Retention Rates
Curricular Tracking as a Denial of the “Free Appropriate Public Education”
Guaranteed to Students with Disabilities under the IDEA
I was delighted to see so many ASPers presenting Works in Progress, and I cannot wait to read and cite your published works!
Monday, September 20, 2021
One of the ways we support our students who are on academic warning or probation is to require them to take a second-year course in Legal Analysis and Methods. The title is vague enough to appear on a transcript without stigma to the student and, as a side benefit, it also gives us a lot of latitude in what we teach in the course. In my section of Methods, I teach study and exam skills as well as a smidge of legal writing, a dash of argumentation, and a bissel of statutory construction/interpretation. I also conference with students one-on-one towards the beginning of the semester to check in on an ungraded “getting to know you” assignment and to try to understand how they got stuck, I mean were fortunate enough to enroll, in this class.
I had a set “script” for these conferences. At the beginning of each conference, we discussed the ungraded assignment (there is written feedback for everyone as well). I thanked each student for doing a great job in our simulated legislature class last week (seriously, the Massachusetts legislature could learn from them). Then, I asked about the other classes they are taking to see where there might be stress points.
Finally, I ask about the elephant in the room, “How do you find yourself on Academic Warning/Probation?” I intentionally use the passive voice. If a student says they had some “personal problems,” I do not ask for details, I just ask if the issues are resolved (or resolving), and if our Dean of Students’ office is aware of them just in case they need some higher power intervention. If a student says they had issues on exams, I make a note of the type of exam it was for future classes on exam skills. Now granted, I knew some of the students coming into these conferences because we met regularly last year. Other than now knowing how tall they really are and confirming that they do indeed have legs, I didn’t need to hear how they got here, but I did need to know how they were doing now.
This year, like all years, I take notes of these meetings. As I flipped through the legal pad for these conferences after meeting with my 22 students, I saw one word show up at the end of my notetaking for every single student, “Zoom.” This was the always part of the answer to how they found themselves in academic trouble.
Zoom or remote learning wasn’t the whole problem for most students: it was Zoom plus. Students told me that last year was not academically successful because of Zoom plus: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia, having COVID, having a family member with COVID, having a chaotic living situation, having a bad internet connection, and so on. But remote learning was, as one student put it, “at least 30-40% of the issue.” Everyone in the remote learning situation-those of us teaching and the students learning- were all trying our best. The bottom line is that remote learning does not work for everyone. These students were concerned that when they take the bar, they will not have learned enough in their first-year classes to get them into a passing range. They felt that they were building their law school houses on weak foundations. This is a valid concern. Going through two (or three for evening students) more years of law school feeling like you are perpetually trying to overcome a deficit will also take a toll on confidence.
I am not saying that remote learning is universally negative either. I had students last year that thrived in a remote learning environment, as well as students who were very nervous about returning in-person because of the pandemic. Remote learning allows broader access for students; I think that is the promise of remote learning going forward. A student can, for example, attend a law school in a place they cannot afford to move to (like Boston) or attend school when health or family issues might otherwise prove an insurmountable barrier. And this is not even close to a complete list of pluses.
Yet, the students who preferred remote learning are just simply not the students I am seeing in academic distress right now. I am not asserting that my 22 student class is a representative sample of all law students but they are mine to teach and I need to know where things fell apart for them before they came to me. The current in-person situation has pluses and minuses as well. Students report that are much happier to be back in-person--but also stuck in a position of navigating the 2L curriculum with a 1L understanding of law school culture. Some of them have spent less time in the building than the 1L students who came to school before classes started for orientation-- a few more cracks in the foundation that will need filling. One student thought that being called an upperclassman was laughable because they felt they had very little to offer the incoming class in terms of wisdom and “the ways” of law school. And yet, they hoped that the expertise they did have was, and would continue to be, obsolete. I hope so too.
As academic support folks, we know there have always been (and will most likely be) students who are in academic distress. Some have had family issues, relationship issues, a failure to understand the time investment etc., but it seems that today’s students have all of these troubles plus Zoom.
 Bissel means just a little bit in Yiddish, https://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-yiddish-handbook-40-words-you-should-know/
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
As we near the end of this first full semester under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, my colleagues and I are developing a clearer and broader picture of the sometimes unanticipated consequences of a shift towards distance learning. The biggest surprise for me has been the magnitude of the cumulative loss of the daily presence of my fellow teachers and administrators.
Halfway through spring semester last year, the State of New York ordered all SUNY schools, including the University at Buffalo School of Law, to move entirely to remote teaching. This was a shock and a strain for students and teachers alike, but we quickly figured out how to make it work reasonably well and get through the end of the school year. If it was a little rough and wearying, it seemed that everyone understood that we were all doing the best we could under exigent circumstances. For me and my graduating students, the stress did not let up over the summer, as the twice-delayed and newly remote NY bar exam was a source of unpredictability and anxiety all the way through to October. But at least, it seemed, my colleagues and I would be able to take what we had learned from all of this and apply it to plan and execute a robust, well-constructed hybrid program for the fall -- one that would allow a limited number of smaller in-person classes while taking advantage of the best practices we had developed for teaching other classes online. We provided rich pre-orientation and orientation programs for our incoming 1L students. Our school's experiential program directors worked tirelessly to adapt to the new conditions so that upper class students could continue to receive the benefits of clinical practice. And those of us in student support made extra effort to reach out and make ourselves available to students scattered throughout the virtual ether. It seemed to me -- and, I think, rightly -- that we, like many law schools, had recognized, prioritized, and attended to our students' novel needs.
What I did not realize until recently that I had overlooked was the value of simply being in the building every day with other professors and administrators. It seemed at first just a slightly lonely little inconvenience, having to work from home most days, and seeing maybe one or two people in the hallways on the days I did go in. After all, we still had regular online meetings of various staff groups and committees, and emails and phone calls were still happening, so it was not as though we did not see each other or even basically know what each of us was up to. And being busier than usual with student queries and online meetings, one might have thought it was a blessing not to have to commute in every day and to spend precious time walking from one end of the building to the other, bumping into people and engaging in chit-chat along the way.
But in these last couple of weeks, I have come to realize what has been reduced because of the lack of interaction with my colleagues: sharing, synergy, and sensibility. I think we (or, who knows, maybe it's just me) greatly underestimated how much gets communicated when you see people two or three times a week, spontaneously ask for opinions or bat ideas around, notice which students they are meeting with, or ask a quick question that would probably take twenty minutes to write adequately in an email. And suddenly we're only a few weeks from finals, and I discover that a student who has been working with me on one specific issue is actually contending with a related issue in a different class. In a Zoom meeting, one doctrinal professor brings up a pervasive issue among her 1L students, and several others realize they've been dealing with the same problem. I'm accidentally left off a group email discussion thread and don't find out for three days -- something that could never have happened if we were all in the building, as I would have wandered into the offices of at least one of the group members every day.
We took so much care to make sure we stayed connected to our students (although they, too, undoubtedly suffer from the dearth of day-to-day contact, with us and with their classmates, in the hallways and before and after class), but, perhaps a bit too stoicly, assumed we'd do fine with more tenuous connections to our colleagues. But now I see. We've missed opportunities to share ideas about the law school and information about our students. It's been harder to improvise together, to pool our strengths to come up with good solutions. And without the little bits of intelligence we pick up from out colleagues -- the pointillist accretion of points of light that add up to the big picture -- it has become harder to be sensitive to concerns that might affect one student or might affect an entire class.
Here I had been thinking that reaching out too much to my absent colleagues would be only a selfish pestering, a feel-good reprieve from isolation. But no! It would really be for the good of my students, and for the whole school. Starting this week, I have begun setting up regular one-on-one chats with folks, agendaless, just to catch up. Everyone I have proposed this to has welcomed the idea. And when I make my weekly visit to campus, I'm going to get out of my office and walk every floor of the law school, just to see the few people whose schedules overlap with mine. Who knows what good, if any, will come out of any particular encounter? All I know now is that nothing good comes from losing them altogether.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Back in the day (2019 and earlier), the first few weeks of law school was a time of intense bonding among classmates. Shared feelings of excitement, tinged with fear of embarrassment and workload-motivated shock, served to turn strangers into friends in a matter of days. These friendships would last throughout law school and beyond, and to good effect: Students would always have at least a couple friends in each course from whom they could borrow notes if they missed class due to illness. Friends, and, okay, sometimes mere acquaintances, would form study groups to share and test ideas. Soon, 2L and 3L students would introduce themselves, visiting classes or tabling in the hallways for various organizations, broadening the new students' networks of connections to include those with similar interests or backgrounds. After law school, these connected students would be connected lawyers, and would do what lawyers do in the real world: provide referrals, share expertise, give moral support. Part of learning to be a lawyer is learning to be part of a legal community.
This year, to varying degrees across the country, the first few weeks of law school have a different texture. In my school, as in many others, only a portion of classes are being conducted live, in a classroom, and those usually the smaller classes. Larger classes are being conducted online, where commiseration over an awkward cold-call response is much more difficult, and where, with no one sitting next to you, idle introductory chit-chat is almost as hard. Representatives from student organizations will probably still visit Zoom classes to introduce themselves and their groups, but with mostly empty hallways, opportunities for getting to know new students in conversation will be less frequent.
In short: it is going to be harder, and in some ways less natural, to make the kinds and numbers of connections that twelve months ago we all would have taken for granted. If you have lecture classes that are entirely online, or even asynchronous, it would be all to easy to think of those classes as a kind of enhanced television program, something that grabs your attention but does not feature you in the cast. Resist this temptation! Instead, make developing your social network one of your goals this semester:
- Join and participate in GroupMe and Facebook groups when invited, or form them yourself.
- Speak up in class, whether orally or in the chat box, and when possible, respond directly to classmates whose views interest you.
- Ask your professors or student life directors to help connect people interested in forming study groups.
- Seek out and contact the leaders of student organizations that interest you.
- Visit your professor's office hours -- real or virtual -- and chat with the other students who attend.
- When you find other classmates who share something in common with you -- an alma mater, a hometown, a hobby, etc. -- use that as a reason to approach them and perhaps get to know them better.
Although all this will take some additional effort, at a time in which you may already feel you are working harder than you have ever done before, that effort is an excellent investment. Later in the semester, as you start preparing for final exams, you will find the community you have made will make your work easier. Your law school experience will be enriched by the support, perspective, and opportunities provided by your network. And that network, and the skills you will develop in forming relationships within the legal community even under trying circumstances, will benefit you throughout your career.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
This past Thursday and Friday, I was in Lubbock for the SWCASP2020, hosted by Cassie Christopher at Texas Tech. Both Cassie and Steven Foster (our editor and founder of SWCASP!) put on a fantastic event.
The morning started with a presentation by Preyal Shah and Meijken Westenskow from UNT Dallas College of Law, 'It Takes a Village: Establishing Working Relationships with Doctrinal Faculty", and that was followed by Zoe Niesel from St. Mary's University School of Law with "Using Academic Support Techniques in the Doctrinal Classroom: One Civil Procedure Professor’s Experience."
Both presentations gave attendees wonderful and concrete takeaways to implement at their schools. Preyal and Meijken took us through various models of working with doctrinal faculty, and the pros and cons that come along with each one. Zoe took us through her experience implementing academic support practices in her own civil procedure course. I have a literal pages of ideas from both presentations, and can't wait to implement them all.
This was followed by our keynote speaker, Raul Ruiz, from Florida International, discussing his work on spaced learning and bar passage.
In the afternoon Antonia Miceli, from Saint Louis University School of Law, presented on "Integrating the Multistate Performance Test from Day One" It gave us great ways to place the MPT in various settings, and she even had us do an exercise where we thought about where we could use practice MPTs, and potential benefits and challenges.
The conference ended with Jamie Kleppetsch from DePaul University College of Law, with "2L Curriculum Chasm: Creating the Skill Bridge Between 1L and 3L" In true ASP fashion, she gave us a syllabus and materials to start implementing a 2L course of our very own, along with a checklist of things to think about.
You might sense a theme - academic support conferences leave us all with concrete takeaways and lists of things to implement at our home schools. And to that end, I promise the member's only section of the AASE website will be making its debut soon, with many of these materials!
However, that's not the only takeaway. The best part of any of these conferences are the lunches and dinners, and shared conversations in hotels and shuttles, and walking during breaks. Most of us have a department of 1 or 2, maybe 3 or 4 if we are very lucky. But that sometimes makes it hard to find support for ourselves. These conferences help us build a community, and that community sustains us throughout the year.
Which is why it is breaking my heart that regional conferences in Chicago and NY are being canceled. It's necessary, but I will very much miss the community gathering.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
This year, I ended my holiday travels with a trip to AALS in Washington, DC. Now that I'm back to normalcy post travel, or at least what passes as normal in academic support, I thought I'd share a bit about our section's AALS Leadership, and our award recipient!
First and foremost, I'd like to officially welcome Jamie Kleppetsch, Director of Bar Passage at DePaul College of Law in Chicago, as the AALS Academic Support Section Chair. Jamie has been doing bar passage work since 2008, and I know she will lead our section to amazing things. I am looking forward to working with her, as I am the new chair-elect! In our leadership, we also have Kirsha Trychta, the Director of the Academic Excellence Center at West Virginia University as our Secretary, and Joe Buffington, Director of Bar Success at Albany Law School as our treasurer. I'm excited to work with this amazing group of people!
Most importantly, the section recognized Academic Support leader and trailblazer, Laurie Zimet. Laurie is the Director of Academic Support at UC Hastings, and is regarded as an expert and founder in the field of academic support. She even coined the term "Asp-ish!". In fact, Laurie was a founding member of the AALS section on Academic Support, so it is more than fitting that the section pay their respects!
While anyone that has met Laurie, or seen her present, knows exactly why she was deserving of this award, I wanted to include some quotes from some members that nominated her.
"She is a resource of incredible wisdom and insight, and she always makes time to check in with other professionals to track their career development. Whether it focuses on professional concerns, program development, and/or enhancing individual skills, Laurie has served our community tirelessly. Her thoughtful guidance has improved academic support programs across the country. She has also been a staunch advocate of academic support professionals by educating countless members of the academy of the importance of our field and the necessity of job security for those in our field." And "In addition, her expertise in teaching is known nationwide. She was an early proponent of active learning in the classroom, which has had a ripple effect on countless professors." Both of these descriptions from Pavel Wonsowicz at UCLA. I think Pavel sums up what those of us that know Laurie think.
In addition, from Kris Franklin, at New York Law School, Laurie is one of the true originators of our discipline, a mentor and foremother to uncountable past and present academic support professionals, and a widely-admired leading voice in legal education. Recognition of her unique contributions to the profession is fitting and probably overdue." Kris is not wrong, and continues to say "Laurie is a recognized expert in active learning and in ASP program design. She has frequently consulted with law schools that were seeking to open or expand academic support programming. In so doing, she helped create jobs in the field, and she directly or indirectly opened the door for many of those working in ASP positions today.
Laurie has always been seen as an unusually vibrant speaker and educator. She has given hundreds of talks at law schools and academic support conferences around the country, all of which helped further the field and inspire those working in it. As just one example, together with Paula Lustbader she was a frequent and early presenter at the AALS Workshop for New Law Professors. Those talks brought the student-centered learning so central to ASP work to a generation of entering law teachers nationwide.
Perhaps most endearingly, as the invited keynote speaker at an LSAC-sponsored ASP conference in Miami, Laurie coined the immediately-recognizable term “ASPish.” We may not be able to fully capture in words the many qualities that the term includes, but… we know ASPish when we see it. Laurie embodies it."
She really does. Congrats to Laurie!
Monday, January 6, 2020
You have so much to explore and express, but . . . you may be asking yourself, is my story good enough? The answer is yes! – Schan B. Ellis
I can think of no better way to begin the new year than by sending kudos to the AALS Section on Academic Support, the executive board, and the planning committee for a fabulous panel session. If you did not attend the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, you missed a treat. The Academic Support session held on Friday, January 3, was attended by law school deans and administrators, clinical and doctrinal faculty outside of ASP, testing and learning specialists, and academic support professionals. To a standing-room-only crowd, a diverse panel of presenters shared their research and insights on the role of faculty in delivering academic support, academic archetypes that signal risks of law school underperformance and bar exam failure, potential gender biases in standardized testing, and bar examination, and the impact of bar exam cut scores on diversity in the legal profession.
I have attended the annual meeting many times. From New York to New Orleans, and from San Diego to Washington, AALS provides a unique opportunity to connect with professors and law school professionals in a welcoming smorgasbord of panel presentations and enriching roundtable sessions. Although I am a veteran AALS attendee, this year I saw the conference through the lens of a presenter for the very first time. I had become quite comfortable listening to and learning from others, and this time I sat at the presenters’ table instead of in the audience.
To say that I was nervous would be an understatement of enormous proportion. Even more daunting was the intimidating company of expert co-panelists that I found myself in. My panel included tenured professor and renowned ASP scholar Catherine Christopher from Texas Tech; published textbook author Jane Grise from the University of Kentucky; and Dean emeritus and UNLV law professor Joan Howarth. I was so busy taking notes from their presentations that I could barely focus on my own.
My point to anyone who has an article idea in gestation: do not convince yourself that you don’t have something worthwhile to say. I was so impressed by how broadly attended the session was, and I could only think that we need more novice scholars to share their works in progress and innovative ideas for the good of the profession. I encourage my ASP colleagues to respond to the call for proposals for the 2020 AASE Conference and the 2021 AALS Section on Academic Support session. It was a fabulous experience for me . . . and if I can do it, surely you can too.
Monday, December 9, 2019
The Section on Empirical Study of Legal Education and the Legal Profession promotes communication relating to the empirical study of the full range of questions raised by legal education and the legal profession, encourages professional development and fostering of relevant skills and expertise for those interested in engaging in the empirical study of legal education and the legal profession, and fosters exploration of and exchange of information relating to research developments between distinct communities within legal education.
The Section is committed to building bridges across the many silos found in legal education, and thus has endeavored to encourage candidates for its officers and executive committee drawn from the diverse ranks of podium faculty; clinical and legal writing faculty; academic support professionals; student affairs professionals; admissions professionals, and other interested members of the broader AALS and legal education community. Officers of the Section and members of its executive committee must be current or retired full-time faculty or professional staff of law schools that are members of the AALS.
This call for nominations invites nominations for two officer positions (chair-elect and secretary/newsletter editor) and up to five Executive Committee members (each of whom serves for a one-year term). Current members of the Executive Committee (listed below) are eligible for election to officer positions or for re-election to the Executive Committee. The Nominating Committee will be chaired by Chair-Elect, Victor Quintanilla. The Section encourages candidates from diverse backgrounds and parts of the academy to nominate themselves or others for positions as officers or membership in the Section’s executive committee. The executive committee also anticipates forming project-based committees this year that may require chairs and additional members.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
I don't usually keep up with the world of royalty. But a recent article caught my attention.
You see, it seems that the one of the legal duties of Queen Elizabeth II is to meet weekly with the Prime Minister for counseling. Sam Walker, "The World's Top Executive Coach: It's Queen Elizabeth," Wall Street Journal, Nov. 16, 2019.
That takes time, energy, and commitment. And, the queen's been meeting with prime ministers weekly since 1952. Id. So, it might be worthwhile to see what she says about counseling and why prime ministers, despite vast differences from one another, continue to seek her advice.
First, the queen provides a safe place for leaders to speak out without "fear or reprisal." In the queen's words: "They unburden themselves. They tell me what's going on, or if they've got any problems." Id. Second, the queen by law is not allow to give orders or publicly takes sides on issues. Id. Third, the meetings focus on seeking impartial common ground. In other words, it's not about the queen's desires but about how to determine what's best for the common good of the people. Id. Fourth, the queen likens her role in meetings to that of a sponge, which I take to mean being a sounding board for prime ministers rather than offering advice. Id.
In summarizing the queen's coaching, author Sam Walker suggests the following:
That great coaches, even though they "often have a better grasp on a tricky situation than the person that they're advising, ...resist the urge to be a helicopter coach. [Instead,] [t]he only way to help leaders [and students] learn and grow is to allow them to make their own mistakes. [And,] [t]he only responsible method [to do this] is to let them speak openly, guard their secrets, and, once in a while try to incrementally redirect their thinking. Doing that requires humility--and lots of practice." Id.
That's not a role all that different from the world of academic support professionals.
Like the queen, we are granted access to some of the deepest secrets and most difficult struggles that our students face.
Like the queen, we must studiously guard our students' confidences.
Like the queen, we are called to listen lots and speak little.
Like the queen, our students learn and grow the most when we walk alongside them, helping them incrementally adjust their thinking, so that our students develop expertise in assessing their own learning with solutions that come forth out of the wellsprings of their own hearts and minds.
To sum up, in the course of most of our work, the truly royal moments of learning are the results of what our students come to experience for themselves under the confidential mentorship of us. As the queen suggests, speaking less can indeed mean speaking more (and in the end lead to better results for our students). So "hears" to better hearing for the betterment of our students!
Friday, November 8, 2019
The Awards Committee for the AALS Section on Academic Support is soliciting nominations for our annual section award winner. The AALS Section Award will be presented to an outstanding member of the ASP community at our section meeting on January 3, 2020 at the AALS Annual Meeting. The committee members are: Jamie Kleppetsch (chair), Susan Landrum, Haley Meade, and Laura Mott. Please review the eligibility and criteria information below and send nominations directly to me, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline to submit nominations is Monday, November 11 at 5:00 p.m. CST. For a nomination to be considered, it must include (at a minimum) a one to two paragraph explanation of why the nominee is deserving of the award. Only AALS ASP Section members may make nominations, but all those within the ASP community may be nominated. Membership in the section is free and can be processed by e-mailing a membership request to email@example.com.
Eligibility and Criteria for Selection. The eligible nominees for the award are individuals who have made significant and/or long-term contributions to the development of the field of law student academic support. All legal educators, regardless of the nature or longevity of their appointment or position, who have at some point in their careers worked part-time or full-time in academic support are eligible for the award. The award will be granted to recognize those who have made such contributions through any combination of the following activities:
- service to the profession and to professional institutions—e.g., advocacy with the NCBE or assumption of leadership roles in the ASP community;
- support to and mentoring of ASP colleagues;
- support to and mentoring of students;
- promoting diversity in the profession and expanding access to the legal profession; and
- developing ideas or innovations—whether disseminated through academic writing, newsletters, conference presentations, or over the listserv.
Law schools, institutions, or organizations cannot receive an award. Prior year or current year Section officers are excluded from being selected as an award winner.
Monday, September 23, 2019
The most important knowledge teachers need to do good work is a knowledge of how students are experiencing learning and perceiving their teacher’s actions. ~ Steven Brookfield
I love innovative pedagogy. Tools like mind maps, retrieval practice, spaced repetition, and self-directed leaning strategies have been game changers in higher education. I am always looking for ways to enhance and improve my teaching. But innovation is an enhancement to, and not a replacement for, the most basic tenets of quality classroom teaching. In this series of weekly blog posts, I will address teaching basics that are the telltale traits of effective teachers.
- Know your audience
We cannot afford to make assumptions about the knowledge or background of the students in our classes. Recently, I attended a conference planned for academic support and bar prep professionals. The first few hours of the conference were devoted almost entirely to explaining basic components of the bar exam. I concluded that the presenters either underestimated the skill and experience of the audience or failed to tailor a previously used presentation for the present audience. My perception of audience reaction to the content and delivery was a combination of polite appreciation, genuine curiosity, and suppressed rage. As audience participants, we have both the luxury and opportunity to make critical assessments of the projected and realized learning outcomes. But a seat on the other side of the podium also yields an enlightened perspective on effective learning strategies.
Rather than disconnect myself entirely from the redundancy of the content presented, I used the time to introspectively examine whether I had made the same mistakes. To my deep chagrin, I had. Insert hand raise emoji. I teach an early bar prep course, enrollment in which is restricted to students in their final year of law school. Because I cannot cover all the bar exam subjects in the time allotted for class, I select a few subjects. Routinely included in my course coverage are Property, Torts, Evidence, and Criminal Law. Although I intentionally include required courses, and stray away from electives that not all students will have taken, I failed to thoroughly research my audience this semester. In so doing, I did not discover, until after class had begun, that two students in my class had not yet completed the required course in Evidence.
One student was concurrently enrolled in Evidence and my course, the other had decided to wait until next semester to complete their requirements. I gut-wrenched at the thought of their polite, yet passive, frustration with me as I assigned practice questions testing hearsay - a topic with which they had no prior exposure. Of course, there are many law schools who do not require coursework in Evidence, and a corresponding number of students who learn/study the evidentiary rules for the first time during bar prep. Pedagogically, however, had I taken the time (actually a lot of time) to review the transcripts of the students enrolled in my class, I could have scheduled assignments that equally serve and challenge them all. Even though time consuming, doing my homework on my audience is just as important as being well studied in the subject matter that I teach. Suddenly my frustration with another’s seeming underestimation of my knowledge base was supplanted with embarrassment by my own overestimation of my students’.
Monday, August 26, 2019
Do you have a great writing idea but don't know how to get started, or a project that you've started but pushed aside for other tasks? Bring your great writing idea or very rough draft to the Central States Law Schools Association ("CSLSA") annual conference September 20-21, 2019, at the University of Toledo College of Law. CSLSA is a regional organization of law schools dedicated to providing a supportive forum for conversation and collaboration with respect to scholarly activity by law school academics. CSLSA recognizes that scholarship ideas come in many shapes and stages, so presentations are welcome, whether just an early-stage idea or a completed draft. CSLSA is about helping you grow as a scholar, so you’ll enjoy a relaxed and encouraging environment where you can ask questions and get helpful feedback on your work. At the CSLSA conference, faculty from across the country and around the world come together to collaborate and forge lasting connections. Finding childcare can be challenging, and your children are welcome at the law school while the conference is being held. If you need help finding a local childcare provider, please contact the CSLSA president at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration is free to faculty and staff at member schools. For a list of member schools and registration information visit the CSLSA website.
Monday, August 5, 2019
I just returned from the 72nd annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) in lovely Boca Raton, Florida. The SEALS conference provided beneficial programming that included substantive updates, current topics affecting legal education and society at large, and a fabulous series of workshops for new scholars.
Our ASP colleagues were very visible during the conference and their sessions generated much positive feedback. There were so many excellent presentations and panel discussions, my one regret is that I could not attend them all. Rory Bahadur, Michael Barry, Cassie Christopher, Patrick Gould, Zoe Niesel, Raul Ruiz, Wanda Temm, and Laurie Zimet shared strategies for bar prep success. DeShun Harris and Renee Allen provided techniques and interdisciplinary teaching methods to improve classroom performance. Twinette Johnson shared her insights on teaching and writing for resistance. Russell McClain and Rosie Schrier challenged legal educators to foster an environment of inclusion by addressing stereotype threat and exploring mindful awareness techniques. Every session provided valuable takeaways. I wish I could address them all!
This was my first year to attend the SEALS conference and it did not disappoint. If you are planning your conference travel for next year, I encourage you to consider SEALS if your travel budget permits. In addition to the topical workshops and discussion groups, I highly recommend the Faculty Recruitment Initiative for anyone on the job market or at a member school looking to hire. The recruitment initiative is designed for entry level applicants, laterals, visitors, and emeriti. SEALS also offers workshops for both prospective law teachers and newer law teachers. These workshops focus on becoming a good classroom teacher, creating effective courses, assessment methods, and balancing service and scholarship. There is certainly room for new and seasoned ASPers to learn and lead at these sessions.