Some Glimpses into the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs

Student Walking in HallwayLast academic year, I wrote a series of blog posts giving some glimpses into the work and world of the Law School’s Office of Public Service (see here for the collection). While I did not know, in writing the first post, that I would feel moved to do a weekly series, this was a virtue of the first, in that otherwise I might not have posted at all. The vice was that I did not pass off enough costs. This year, in a related context, I’ll correct for the vice, even at the expense of forgoing the virtue.

All of this is to introduce a series of blog posts that a number of us at the Law School envision this semester concerning our Office of Student Affairs. The name may have somewhat less recognition than OPS for a variety of reasons. They include that the assistant dean leading the office (Anna Fodor) has an administrative title (assistant dean of students) that does not precisely correspond to the “office.” There is also the fact that “student affairs,” as we conceive it at Marquette Law School, is exquisitely enmeshed with academic affairs, which Professor Nadelle Grossman leads as associate dean. A “final” reason is that some of us tend to think of Suite 238, the home of student affairs, simply as “the main office,” no doubt having carried the association with us from Room 146 in Sensenbrenner Hall, the Law School’s former home.

In any event, this is the first post in our effort to capture or describe a sphere in which Dean Fodor and a number of colleagues work to support and enhance the experience of law students. They include Nicole Toerpe Mason, the Law School’s registrar; Stephanie Danz, assistant registrar; Sarah DiStefano, assistant director of student affairs (lest it be thought that we never use the phrase in a title); and Emma Geiser, whom you may recognize from her work at the front desk in the office. No doubt subsequent posts will mention them more specifically.

My particular interest in this post, besides providing the introduction(s), is to note the comprehensive work of the Office of Student Affairs team. In a sense, this can be captured by reference to the bookends of the academic year or even of the Marquette Law School experience: New Student Orientation in the fall and the Hooding and Commencement Ceremony in the spring. Both of these are “productions” of the Office of Student Affairs, even as they necessarily draw substantially on the work of numerous other colleagues and offices at the Law School.

To be sure, many things happen in student affairs between the beginning and the end, even while (as I said in my most recent welcome-back letter) students’ “time here is spent, in a sense, primarily with faculty.” Some relatively new experiments in the student affairs realm seem to be becoming staples. “Fall in the Forum,” a community gathering the past two Septembers, may be one such. I myself especially appreciate this effort—and only partly because it has helped support my long-held intuition that the Zilber Forum, at the center of Eckstein Hall, would be a fine venue for an event with live music. “Finals Breakfast for Dinner” is a few years older yet and has the advantage of being unambiguously about food for law students (on an evening during the fall and spring semester exam periods).

Those references are to particular events that tend to have a celebratory or community-building focus about them. Law School, like much of life, is sometimes a slog—or, to sound another theme from my most recent welcome-back letter, a process of “habit-making.” In that regard, the Office of Student Affairs also provides both a number of programs that span the academic year, such as the Academic Success Program and Marquette Law Mentorship Program (also well captured in this photo), and ongoing services, such as one-on-one advising and support touching on almost every aspect of student life. Future blog posts in this series will have occasion to delve into those.

Words and even examples can communicate only so much, but I am very confident that, through this series, what we find together will give us all a deeper sense of just what a special community Marquette Law School is.

Did I mention that I will not be doing all of the posts? That is part of the reason that I can be so confident.

Continue ReadingSome Glimpses into the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs

Public Service and Pro Bono Kudos

Marquette Law SchoolLast year I had occasion to do a series of seven blog posts surveying some of the great work of our community, led by our Office of Public Service, in the realm of pro bono service. Without doubting that that number could be multiplied, here, by contrast, I will combine into one post a number of recent pro bono “happenings” that should be celebrated:

  1. The Mobile Legal Clinic marked a decade of service this fall. Since its launch in 2013, 385 volunteer lawyers and law students have participated in the mobile model of service delivery. During this time, the Mobile Legal Clinic, a project of Marquette Law School and the Milwaukee Bar Association, has visited 54 host sites in 655 sessions and served 4,829 people. The tenth anniversary was celebrated on October 24 at the Milwaukee Bar Association. A number of those involved in envisioning and making possible the Mobile Legal Clinic—Frank Daily, Julie Ebert, Mike Gonring, and Angela Schultz—were recognized at the gathering.

  2. Tara Kniep, a third-year student, was named as the Milwaukee Bar Association’s Pro Bono Law Student of the Year at the MBA’s State of the Court luncheon at the Wisconsin Club on October 11. The award recognizes her exceptional dedication to pro bono service and her remarkable work to technologically transform the client experience at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics. In addition to schoolwork and a job, Tara made it her mission to serve her community through her pro bono efforts. To date, she has contributed over 170 pro bono hours to the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics. The processes that Tara has introduced have improved operational efficiency at both in-person and remote clinics, saving time for clients and volunteers alike.

  3. The Pro Bono & Access to Justice Section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) has released its second annual Pro Bono Honor Roll. This initiative invites law school deans to denominate a faculty member, a staff member, and a student for their outstanding contributions to pro bono legal services. This year, it was a privilege to honor Michael O’Hear, professor of law; Katie Mertz, director of pro bono and public service; and Heidi Maier, a third-year law student, for their significant roles at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics over the past year. Professor Michael O’Hear, known nationally for his expertise in criminal law, has expanded his reach, in order to address common issues faced by family law litigants visiting the MVLCs. He holds a regular shift at the Milwaukee Justice Center and is a dedicated and valuable volunteer.

    Katie Mertz has demonstrated innovation in her administrative position by reviving estate planning clinics, creating a housing-referral tool for individuals dealing with eviction and other housing-related legal matters, and engaging students in the Wills for Heroes project in collaboration with Foley & Lardner, among other activities.

    Heidi Maier, in the midst of her studies, has contributed more than 230 pro bono hours, displaying remarkable dedication by consistently assisting at the United Community Center with a weekly shift throughout the summer, while managing a job in Brookfield, and this fall she has made a weekly commitment at the House of Peace. She is also an invaluable member of the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics’ student advisory board, adding value as a member of the leadership team.

Kudos and great thanks to all who seek to “Be The Difference” through their pro bono and public service work at Marquette University Law School.

Continue ReadingPublic Service and Pro Bono Kudos

Why Report on K–12 Education in Wisconsin? Listen to Alan Borsuk.

Alan BorsukAlan J. Borsuk has been the Law School’s senior fellow in law and public policy since fall 2009—call it 14 years. So, for a not wholly impertinent point, he has some time to go before replicating his 37 preceding years as a reporter and editor at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In any event, during his time with us, he has kept his hand in the newspaper with the occasional—nay, frequent—column on K–12 education policy and practice in this region. Why?

Borsuk’s recent piece in The Grade, a nationwide online platform focused on journalism about education, will tell you. Here’s a flavor (the introduction):

I crossed paths with a former member of the Milwaukee school board a while ago.

He had moved on from the school scene, but I was still writing about K-12 education, as I had across more than 50 years.

“Do you feel like you’re living ‘Groundhog Day’?” he asked me, referring to the movie in which the protagonist repeats the same day over and over.

“Yes. All the time,” I told him.

At that time, I often felt like I was writing pieces I’d written so many times before.

But I was still doing it.

Why? Because damn it, it’s important.

That’s why I’m still at it all these years later — and why I decided to make what might be my last big project as a journalist a multipart series on longstanding problems in how most schools teach kids to read.

Education coverage should be energetic and powerful. I hope that showed in the recent pieces I wrote about literacy. But I also know there is more I could and should do.

There is more all of us in education journalism could and should do.

As with Borsuk’s work more generally, the whole thing is well worth a read. Find it here.

Continue ReadingWhy Report on K–12 Education in Wisconsin? Listen to Alan Borsuk.