By the Students, For the Students

This post, by the Assistant Director of Student Affairs, is the fourth in a series of weekly blog posts this semester concerning the work of the Office of Student Affairs. The first, by Dean Kearney, can be found here, and the second and third, by Assistant Dean of Students Anna Fodor, are available here and here.

FGP's 2023 First-Gen Mixer Photo
First Generation Professionals’ fall 2023 First-Gen Mixer at Third Street Market Hall. Photo courtesy of Emily Kehl, president of FGP.

Student organizations are a staple at educational institutions, including Marquette University Law School. These organizations offer students opportunities to form their own smaller communities within a larger institution. Here at Marquette Law School—whether driven by a particular practice area, an aspect of students’ personal identity, or a legal philosophy—student-run organizations offer a way for future Marquette lawyers to build connections with their peers and beyond. It might even surprise some to learn how much these “outside of the classroom” interactions shape a student’s development, contribute to identity formation, and can affect student retention and performance.[1]

Registered student organizations[2] are the one aspect of the law school experience run by students, for students. They are completely voluntary and extracurricular, with no academic prescriptions or curricular incentives for holding or attending events (on the other hand, free food, no mean incentive, is widely available); the interests and activities of students entirely drive these communities. Through them, students help create the “culture” at a particular school. How active (or inactive) an organization is, what it chooses to do, which speakers it brings to campus, how inviting and inclusive its programs are—all of these affect a law school’s culture and the student experience.

Let me give a quick highlight of our Marquette Law School student organizations and some representative engagement opportunities:

  • 35+ active organizations
  • 80+ meetings, speakers, panels, socials, and networking events during the Fall 2023 Semester
  • 150+ student leadership positions

Forum “tabling” events are quick and small ways by which students can engage with each other, with a fun “swing by for a few minutes” vibe; a few examples:

  • The Organization for Student Wellbeing’s Savor the Sips social tabling
  • Hispanic Latino Law Students Association’s monthly Taco Tuesday fundraiser
  • Student Bar Association’s Welcome Back donuts

For organizations that host a guest speaker or panel of speakers, each event brings in practicing attorneys, judges, or experts in their field to discuss legal issues. Recent examples include:

  • Labor and Employment Law Society’s AI and the Workforce panel
  • The Federalist Society’s speaker event with the Hon. Michael Brennan discussing Biden v. Nebraska and federal student loan debt
  • Out and Allies speaker event to discuss LGBTQ+ Issues in Education

Social and networking events allow our students to build lasting friendships, meet practitioners, and gather outside of Eckstein Hall. At one point or another, almost all of our organizations host networking events with their professional chapter equivalents or local bar associations. A sampling of RSOs’ recent social and networking events:

  • Sports Law Society’s annual Brewers tailgate and game
  • Real Estate Law Society’s monthly happy hour
  • First Generation Professionals’ annual first-gen mixer
  • Asian Law Students Association’s fall boba tea gathering

And a few signature events get the entirety of the student body, often along with faculty and staff, involved, engaged, and feeling like part of our greater community. These include:

  • Canned Immunity, the collaborative week-long donation drive spearheaded by our Association for Women Lawyers to collect canned goods and food for local community food banks. Interested professors grant “on call” immunity during the week for students to bring in a donation.
  • The Period Products Initiative, led by the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Society and the Office of Student Affairs, provides free period products in the women’s bathrooms throughout the building. The students ensure that the boxes are filled while the Office of Student Affairs purchases and maintains the inventory.
  • Barristers’ Ball is the Student Bar Association’s annual signature formal event. It recognizes all the work put into the year by the students and provides a highlight to celebrate the end of another great year.

So, if all this is “by the students and for the students,” what do I even do around here?

Well, I work to make it all happen. At the beginning of each academic year, I provide training to the more than 150 student leaders, going over policies and procedures to help them think about and plan these events. Working with law school colleagues, I organize the students (or the events) so that we avoid major scheduling conflicts, reserve spaces for their meetings, coordinate complimentary parking for their guests, help track their budgets, and process reimbursements and payments, among other things. In my experience, you never get to know people better than by working on a project with them, and it’s one of my favorite things to get to see a new idea blossom into a successful community event (looking at you, SBA Chili Cook-off!)

Our student-run organizations foster connections and enrich our Law School, and we, in turn, do our best to support their efforts to reach their own goals. We do this because, ultimately, national research and local experience show that the more that our students engage with each other, the more they feel they belong to our law school culture—and, by extension, in the legal profession as a whole.

[1] Give Chickering’s seven vectors or Astin’s theory of involvement a good Google. They help form the foundation of student development theory.

[2] Registered student organizations (RSOs) are groups that are completely voluntary and where students do not receive any sort of academic credit for their work. So law journals, moot court, and client skills work typically fall outside this category. The Public Interest Law Society, by contrast to both these co-curricular organizations and RSOs, falls into what might be called a department-sponsored organization category.

Continue ReadingBy the Students, For the Students

Congratulations to WAAL Scholarship Winners Carson, Jordan, and Medcalf

On Thursday, September 22, 2022, the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers (WAAL) honored three Marquette University Law School students with scholarship awards.

VelanDale Scholarship
WAAL is proud to honor the career and legacy of the late Vel and Dale Phillips for the last thirty-two years. In 1990, WAAL established a scholarship in the name of the late W. Dale Phillips to provide scholarships to African-American law students at Wisconsin’s two law schools, Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin. In 2004, WAAL proudly renamed the scholarship the VelanDale Scholarship Award to include and honor Vel Phillips’ outstanding accomplishments. Vel Phillips passed away in 2018 and Dale in 1988, but their community work and legacy will forever live on. Each year, WAAL awards two law students from our law schools in Wisconsin with this honor.

This year’s award winners are Carolyn Carson (3L) and Josiah Jordan (2L).

head shot of dark-skinned woman with curly hair and a big smile, wearing a white shirt and black suit jacket
Carolyn Carson, 3L

Carolyn Carson is a 3L. She has been a Law Clerk at Stafford Rosenbaum since the sumnmer. Carson, who is interested in business law, is a member of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers (WAAL). She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Valparaiso University, where she double-majored in Communication and Spanish. She received her MBA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; while there, she placed 1st at the International Ethics Case Competition.

Carson said her proudest professional moment was winning the Brewed Ideas Challenge, a Marquette University version of Shark Tank. Carson’s pitch was based on a haircare business she and her mother started called Nubian’s Way.

Continue ReadingCongratulations to WAAL Scholarship Winners Carson, Jordan, and Medcalf

Pro Bono Week: Student and Alumni Features, Part II

For the remaining Pro Bono Week features, not only do we have some individual students and alumni, but we also feature a student organization as well. Please follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see more photos throughout the week.

Our next student to be featured is Kelsey Brown. Kelsey is a 3L and will be graduating this December. Student at work in a pro bono clinicShe has been involved since October of her first year of law school and has participated with the House of Peace, UCC, Milwaukee Justice Center, and the Veteran’s Service Office throughout her law school tenure.

Her reasons for participating in pro bono opportunities: “I decided to do pro bono because I wanted to better educate people on the law. I felt that if people were better educated on the law, then they are in a better position to recognize and fight against unfair and unnecessary treatment against them. I also wanted to be a role model for individuals who come to the clinics. I wanted to show them that lawyers come in all shapes, sizes, and shades—just like them. And hopefully by seeing an African American female such as myself working at the clinic, they will see the legitimacy of the Wisconsin court system. My favorite thing about volunteering at is that everyone feels good—the client feels good because he or she received legal advice; and the volunteer law student/volunteer lawyer feel good because they helped a client understand the Wisconsin legal system.”

Salonee Patel is a 3L who has been working with the pro bono programs for about two and half years. She’s volunteered with the Milwaukee Justice Center in the past but you can primarily find her at the United Community Center this year. Students at work in a pro bono clinicShe is one of our Student Advisory Board members and says her favorite part is “working alongside attorneys and students to help our clients out with their legal issues.”

Salonee has many reasons for doing pro bono work. “It is important to volunteer and help out especially when you have the time and resources to do so,” she says, and “as a law student, not only do you start learning certain legal skills, but you also get to know your community better.”

Not only do individual students, participate in pro bono work, our student organizations do too.

Continue ReadingPro Bono Week: Student and Alumni Features, Part II