One Final Glimpse into the Law School Office of Student Affairs

This is the tenth and final post in a weekly series about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. Previous posts can be accessed here and at the bottom of the post linked here.

If you do your job well in student affairs, a former colleague once told me, it’s possible that no one will know precisely what you do. The same is likely true across many different departments in many different fields. In this context, it reflects that a lot of our work in student affairs is “behind-the-scenes”—putting together a schedule, organizing important programs, making the trains run on time. This may also mean that a lot of what we do is not especially “marketable.” And yet we want students to know enough about what we do that they recognize our availability to them.

So, for better or worse, this series of posts, initiated by the dean, was an effort to lift that veil a bit. In this final entry, I thought I would take one more crack at it, so that, just like the literal door to our office (in suite 238), the metaphorical door to our office is propped wide open.

On a regular basis, the five members of the Office of Student Affairs gather to discuss upcoming projects on each of our plates. We also, in true summer-camp fashion, go around the table, each of us sharing a highlight and a low point from the prior month or so. Whether you call it “rose, thorn, and bud,” “peach and pit,” or just regular old “high/low,” it’s a chance to reflect on our challenges and celebrate our wins. Here’s a little sampling.

Let’s start with a “rose.” There was the opportunity one of us had recently to attend a graduate’s individual swearing-in ceremony. Few paths to an attorney’s swearing-in are straightforward; they are often marked by challenges, of the academic, professional, and personal variety. Whether as part of the group ceremony following graduation or in an individual ceremony in a small courthouse far from Milwaukee, it’s an occasion for us to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our students.

Then there was the failed email mail merge. The stuff of nightmares really, because this was an email campaign with a tight deadline to be sent to a very large group of individuals. Who could have known that the emails were stuck in some sort of Microsoft purgatory? After a few days, concerned about the nonexistent response rate, we put two and two together. We managed to fix the problem, but not without a healthy dose of stress and frustration first. Sometimes, even if you do everything “right,” things go wrong. It turns out, that’s OK.

We celebrate the cyclical accomplishments—pulling off orientation, registering students for a new semester, getting through another exam period, graduating another class—as much as anything. Each is well-practiced but nevertheless requires an almost obsessive attention to detail, a seemingly endless to-do list, and a constant drive to improve upon the last iteration.

The lowest lows are also the saddest because they don’t involve an event or a task. We keep these intensely private. But we know they’re there, and we work to support our students and each other through these times.

Those lowest lows also put into perspective some other “lows.” Maybe we take an angry call from a community member who is dissatisfied when law school staff could not provide direct legal advice. We do our best to provide resources and referrals with compassion and sincerity and then must accept the outcome.

I’ll conclude (on the positive side of the ledger) with our annual welcoming of a new class. It’s the culmination of the work of student ambassadors, the Law School’s Office of Admissions, our faculty, and—not least—the culture of Marquette University Law School. This “high” has less to do with the contribution of any one team member or office and more to do with the fact that we all hope we are part of something that will allow our students to pursue their goals.

As we wrap up this series, I hope that our work and our team feel a bit more familiar, like people you might turn to if you need a form, want to start a student organization, or are just going through a tough time. And if everything is going fine and you find that you have no idea what happens in the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs but know that you can go there if you need to, we’ll take that as a sign of success. It means we’re doing our job.

Continue ReadingOne Final Glimpse into the Law School Office of Student Affairs

We All Work in Student Affairs

This is the sixth in a continuing weekly series of blog posts about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. The first, second, third, fourth, and fifth can be found at the included links.

The work and responsibilities of a student affairs team look different from university to university and even from law school to law school. Each is organized in a way that makes sense for a particular student body, curriculum, and school.

At Marquette Law School, the Office Student Affairs is responsible for, among other things, orientation programming, the Academic Success Program, registrar services, student organizations, wellness initiatives, disability services, social media, exam administration, and graduation planning; in other words, we cover ground from orientation to graduation. (Dean Kearney’s opening post to this series introduces you to the members of the office—including, well, me—who do this work, along with Associate Dean Nadelle Grossman, who oversees academic affairs and, as my boss, ultimately our whole operation.) Supporting students as they pursue a legal education is at the heart of what we do.

And, in this regard, we are hardly the only ones within Eckstein Hall to do so. So allow me to break from our “regular programming” to note the collaborative work of a number of colleagues—individuals and teams—all of whom support students in their challenges, work, and pursuits. That is to say, their work also directly involves our students’ affairs.

As her title alone implies, Associate Dean for Enrollment and Inclusion and Professor of Law Vada Waters Lindsey wears a seemingly endless array of hats—from overseeing our admissions process to serving as a tax law professor. She leads our inclusion work and also serves as chair of the faculty’s Diversity Committee. In this regard (or these regards) Dean Lindsey holds regular weekly office hours for all interested students, she invites them to have conversations about what they’re experiencing and learning, she listens, and she shares. She is a trusted collaborator and advisor to colleagues and students alike.

As for where to go next, there are a lot of possibilities. The Academic Success Program has a special place in my heart, but it’s not the only place where our students receive skill-building support—far from it. Director of Bar Preparation Katie Pagel and Writing Specialist Darek Ciemniewski (or “Dr. C,” as he is known to our students) stand at the ready to provide students with the individualized tools they need to succeed on everything from a first-year legal-writing assignment to a post-graduation bar exam for students who do not intend to practice in Wisconsin. Whenever I talk with a student who is taking one of Professor Pagel’s classes or working with Dr. C, there is never a shortage of praiseworthy adjectives used to describe the experience.

Keeping with colleagues who meet, as a matter of course and dedication, one-on-one with each of their students, it makes sense to turn next to the Law School’s esteemed Legal Writing Faculty. Each professor of legal writing brings a different style to the classroom, but all offer their students an education in one of the most important skills acquired in law school. In addition to their classroom instruction, they review drafts of students’ work, meet regularly for conferences with individual students, and get to know our students in a particularly close way. They are also often colleagues who notice and reach out when something is wrong, if someone has stopped showing up, or (it’s not all bad) if someone has shown great strides in his or her work.

The teaching librarians and staff of the Eckstein Law Library are a constant, student-focused presence in Eckstein Hall. Our library has no walls, after all. What this means is, among other things, that students always have a friendly face, right there across the Zilber Forum at the Circulation and Reference desks. You’ll also see members of the knowledgeable Law Library team teaching students core skills in Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research and Advanced Legal Research courses; serving as helpful, calming proctors for 1L final exams; and—if you venture across campus—you might even catch some of them at the Marquette Annex, bowling for their—our—winning team, Split Decisions.

When you need to find a lost computer file, when you cannot hear what presenters are saying in the Lubar Center, when a professor needs help setting up a recording, or—prepare yourself for this one—when your computer dies in the middle of an exam, who you gonna call? Why, the Law School’s Media and Technology Group, of course. Located in suite 218, this three-person team doesn’t just fix our tech problems. They also keep things running smoothly in the first place—things that I don’t quite understand and am all the more grateful to the Media and Tech team for not having to.

Marquette Law School’s nationally acclaimed Sports Law Program is more than a series of stellar courses, internships, events, and conferences. It’s a close and caring network of which participating students instantly become a part. The program’s invested leadership, faculty, and alumni help develop Marquette law students into future leaders in the field. But one of the most impressive things about the Sports Law Program is the way that students support and help develop other students. As it happens here, students, too, are in students’ affairs.

Much like the Office of Student Affairs, the Career Planning Center (CPC) and the Office of Public Service (OPS) both have their own programmatic initiatives and services. At our best, the Law School’s various administrative offices act as limbs of the same body, referring students appropriately or making a handoff when the other limb can help a student. It happens often that I talk with a student about deploying (or perhaps I should say employing) the services of the CPC or boosting her confidence in her professional skills by participating in a Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic hosted by OPS.

It might be easy to think that magical elves keep our building humming, the Student Success Program sandwiches coming, and the Zilber Forum configured and reconfigured again in a matter of minutes for various large-scale events. But the Law School’s facilities and events team and the Tory Hill Café’s catering team are behind much of it. This past Friday, I ran into a couple of students who asked if they could still come into Eckstein Hall to study over the weekend, despite there being an admissions event planned. I said, “Of course, this is your law school.” And as I reflect on that moment now, our students’ law school is a place where they want to be not least because of our law school’s facilities team.

Even our “centers,” which might be understood as substantially external facing, are deeply involved in student life. Barely 14 months ago, Dean Kearney welcomed former City of Milwaukee Municipal Court Presiding Judge Derek Mosley, L’95, back to the Law School, as director of the Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education. And former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Chief Judge Mary Triggiano took on the role of director of the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice at just the beginning of this academic year. Each, together with center colleagues, has infused joy, energy, and a wealth of community knowledge into the Law School. Each already is a force in the lives of our students, welcoming them to our Milwaukee community and introducing them to new people, stories, and skills.

I have saved for last an inclusive mention of all of our caring faculty members. Whether full-time or part-time, whether teaching doctrine or focusing on skills, these are the individuals with whom our students spend the most time. But even setting aside the classroom, it’s not at all uncommon to find a faculty member taking the time to attend a student organization’s event, stopping to talk with a table of students in the Zilber Forum, checking up on a student after something has or may have happened, and, yes, letting others know when they believe a student can use a resource or assistance. Those are among the moments and kindnesses that often stick with our graduates, long after they have moved on from Eckstein Hall.

None of us can (or would want to) do the work of supporting students alone. As I hope is plain to see, at Marquette Law School, in one way, or another, we are all concerned with and dedicated to our students’ affairs. As someone who works in the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs, I’m so grateful to be a part of a community where that is the case.

Continue ReadingWe All Work in Student Affairs

Law School Alphabet Soup

This is the third in a series of weekly blog posts this semester concerning the Office of Student Affairs (past entries can be found here and here).Photo of alphabet soup

As soon as one walks through the doors of Eckstein Hall, she is likely to hear any number of initialisms and acronyms: ASP, AWA, CPC, CREAC, FGP, IRAC, LGL, MLM, MVLC, NSLI, OTI, SBA, and SSP, just to name a few. Some may already be conversant with Washington, D.C.’s “alphabet soup” (primarily made up of federal-agency abbreviations). Here at Marquette Law School, we have our own version.

For those new to our community, I’ve included at the bottom of this post a glossary of the above terms. Perhaps it might help ease the transition. But I’ll focus especially on the first and last of the list: ASP and SSP.

The Academic Success Program or ASP—where a pair of upper-level students lead weekly review and skill-building sessions for each first-year doctrinal course—is a core feature of the 1L experience here. I say “here” because you won’t find a program like ASP at every law school. In fact, some preliminary research, looking at supplementary academic programs across 199 U.S. law schools, yielded only about 20 other law schools that hold sessions akin to those of our ASP program.*

Each Marquette ASP session lasts 45 minutes—often over the lunch hour, but sometimes necessitating an even earlier start to the day than the course schedule requires. With three sessions per week (one for each doctrinal 1L course each semester), that amounts to two hours and 15 minutes of time that students might otherwise spend reading, talking, sleeping, networking, applying to jobs, or doing any number of other worthy and valuable things. Time is a precious commodity in law school, and we suggest to our 1Ls that they spend 135 minutes of their week attending ASP.

And they do so—with roughly 79% of the entering class of 2023, for example, attending 10 or more sessions in their first semester. Neither the Law School nor individual faculty members require 1Ls to attend ASP. Rather, first-year students are self-motivated to do so because of the opportunity to review, clarify, and—critically—apply the material taught in the prior calendar week’s classes.

As you might surmise, though, it’s not the numbers that make the program special. It’s the people. (If you’ve read the prior two posts in this series, you might also begin to sense a theme.) Our ASP student leaders are selected not merely based on their successful performance in the course during their own first year. Their selection is guided by their desire to be a resource to first-year students, their intellectual humility and professionalism, and their willingness to sacrifice some of their own upper-level course preferences to be able to sit in on every class meeting of the doctrinal course. The upper-level ASP student leaders observe the classes, work with faculty members, prepare for the sessions, present, and self-assess. These impressive student leaders receive credit for their time and work, but, if I had to guess, I think most would do it even without that. Such is the pride that ASP leaders take in their work, having remembered the benefit they reaped from the program when they were 1Ls.

On the other end of the alphabet, we find the Student Success Program or SSP. We regard ASP and SSP as an integrated series, with each intended to complement the other.

SSP features regular fall-semester workshops that aim to provide a foundational understanding of how to “do” law school. SSP starts with videos in our online Pre-Orientation program. The videos walk a student through how (and why) to read a case in law school. Unfortunately for our students, I’m the star of those initial sessions. But things quickly take a turn for the better, as—for the remainder of the semester—our upper-level SSP student leaders take the helm to plan, rehearse, and present as many as eight workshops on topics ranging from synthesizing notes to outlining to exam writing.

SSP, too, is an entirely voluntary program, and yet, this past fall, attendance at the sessions averaged over 75% of the first-year class. It might not hurt that we offer participating students a free lunch, but I prefer to think of that as simply an added bonus.

ASP and SSP are not the only paths to academic enrichment; classes are, of course, at the heart of the law-school experience, and faculty and staff routinely work one-on-one with students to discuss content and individualized learning strategies. But ASP and SSP provide students with another important and informal setting for learning, not to mention built-in mentorship from leaders eager to help. Thus, for Marquette law students, ASP and SSP really are key terms.


ASPAcademic Success Program: Weekly skill-building sessions, led by upper-level student leaders, for each first-year doctrinal course

AWA – Appellate Writing and Advocacy: Upper-level workshop course offered annually in the fall semester; a prerequisite for participation in the Law School’s Moot Court Program

CPC Career Planning Center: Located in suite 240, the CPC provides programming, resources, and one-on-one advising to Marquette law students as they pursue their professional goals—from internships to post-graduate employment.

CREAC – Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, Conclusion: A common organizational structure used for writing legal briefs and memoranda; typically taught in the Law School’s first-year Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research courses

FGPFirst Generation Professionals: Student-run organization that brings together students of all backgrounds who are the first in their families to attend law school; one of the largest student-run organizations at Marquette Law School

IRAC – Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion: A common organizational structure used when writing law-school exam answers; explained and discussed in depth at SSP sessions

LGL – Law Governing Lawyers: Marquette Law School’s required course in professional responsibility and lawyer ethics

MLM Marquette Law Mentorship: Marquette Law School’s official mentorship program, which pairs new law students with volunteer upper-level mentors

MVLCMarquette Volunteer Legal Clinics: Legal-advice clinics organized by the Law School, serving especially the Milwaukee community, and staffed by volunteer attorneys and Marquette law students; law students can start volunteering with the MVLCs and other pro bono opportunities as early as the summer before their first year of law school

NSLINational Sports Law Institute: Affiliated with the Marquette Sports Law Program, the NSLI awards the Sports Law Certificate to graduating Marquette law students who complete the associated curricular requirements.

OTIOn the Issues: As one of a series of events hosted by Marquette Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, OTIs bring leading community voices to Eckstein Hall to discuss important and timely policy matters.

SBAStudent Bar Association; With its entire membership elected by the student body, SBA sponsors important law school initiatives as well as annual events, including Barristers’ Ball.

SSPStudent Success Program:  A series of fall-semester workshops that cover the basics of how to “do” law school; led by upper-level student leaders and offered annually to first-year students; shamelessly proudly serves lunch

* My sincere thanks to Abigail Nilsson for her exhaustive (and likely exhausting) research on this topic.

Continue ReadingLaw School Alphabet Soup