Dean's Desk: New Wintersession offers learning, networking opportunities

November 18, 2015

deans-desk-parrishOne of the many rewarding aspects of being a law school dean is seeing our alumni succeed in so many walks of life. Earlier this month, two of them achieved landslide victories in local elections: Joe Hogsett, ’81, as mayor of Indianapolis, and John Hamilton, ’86, as mayor of Bloomington. We’re also very proud of one of our law students, Alison Chopra, who was elected to the Bloomington City Council. We’ve also learned that Norris Wang, ’83, was elected to the West Lafayette City Council, and that Matthew Beardsley, ’04, was elected as Frankfort city judge.

These public servants take their places alongside generations of leaders in government who have graduated from the Maurer School of Law, including our current representation across the state: the chief justice; five U.S. attorneys; eight public defenders; 21 county bar association presidents; 88 deputy and assistant prosecutors and dozens of county judges. And their elections follow the recognition of other alumni in October for their tremendous public service, including Judge Zeke Friedlander ’65, who received IU’s highest alumni award, as well as Gene Wilkins ’57, Tony Prather ’83, and Holiday Hart McKiernan ’83, who were honored with Distinguished Service Awards from the law school. We’re grateful to all for their service and send our congratulations to our newly elected alumni officials.

In this Dean’s Desk column, I thought I’d highlight an innovative new program at our school: Wintersession. This January – while other law schools’ students remain on winter break – our students will be diligently at work, honing their legal skills and knowledge in a fast-paced, weeklong program taught by leading lawyers and business executives from around the country. In small classes that enable focused instruction and detailed feedback, students will earn one pass/fail credit through hands-on and simulation learning. There will be no additional tuition expense: the Wintersession is included in the law school’s flat rate, locked-in tuition. While intersessions have begun to spring up nationally, ours is the first program of its kind offered in Indiana.

Some of our most distinguished alumni and friends will teach in our inaugural Wintersession. This year’s faculty include Steve Burns, ’68, the chairman of Wheaton Van Lines; Jay Finkelstein, a partner with DLA Piper in Washington, D.C.; Bill Hunt, ’69, former chairman and CEO of Arvin Industries; Bill Mooz, a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado School of Law; Doris Pryor, ’03, assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana; Jeff Thinnes, ’84, principal in JTI Inc., a global corporate compliance firm; Michelle Trumbo, one of our talented research librarians; and the Hon. Nancy Vaidik, chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals. In addition, Wintersession faculty have graciously volunteered to spend their evenings in Bloomington so that our students can visit with them after class over coffee or dinner and hear more about their experiences as professionals and business leaders.

The law school faculty created the Wintersession to respond to specific student needs. The program encourages further exploration of business and operations of lawyering, a topic introduced in our pathbreaking first-year course on the legal profession. It provides an opportunity for deeper study of subjects or an introduction to specific practical skills. And it facilitates students’ meeting and networking with alumni and faculty in smaller and structured settings. Seven innovative courses will be offered in our inaugural program. Designed for short-term, intensive treatment, they are: Pretrial Litigation: Criminal Practice; Pretrial Litigation: Depositions; The Lawyer as Business Executive; International Business Negotiations; Introduction to Legal Operations; Ethics and Compliance; and Introduction to American Legal Research. Like many new initiatives, the Wintersession will be an experiment, but initial interest is already strong, and we expect to expand it next year.

The Wintersession is just the latest of a series of faculty-driven initiatives designed to provide students tremendous learning opportunities at the law school. Other initiatives from just this past year include the launch of a new Veterans Disability Law Clinic; the creation of a new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office certified Intellectual Property Law Clinic; the expansion of our externship and clerkship program and the appointment of a new director of externships; the strengthening and revitalization of our Washington, D.C., semester-long third-year externship program; and the development of new certificate programs in cybersecurity law (in a collaboration with the IU Kelley School of Business and the IU School of Informatics and Computing), in intellectual property law hosted by our Center for Intellectual Property Research, and in the rule of law through our Center for Constitutional Democracy. Other initiatives, such as our collaboration with the School of Public and Environmental Affairs with its new Law and Public Policy Program for undergraduates, continue to grow. And these programs build on others, such as our recently ranked No. 8 in the nation joint JD/MBA program and our joint JD/MPA program with the No. 2 ranked School of Public and Environmental Affairs. It is programs like these, along with many others, that have garnered the law school well-deserved recognition as one of the nation’s most innovative.

I’ll end with this note. Great law schools, like ours, are scholarly institutions that take advantage of the tremendous strengths of being part of one of the nation’s great universities. While building new curricular programs to provide our students great learning opportunities, our faculty continues to make significant contributions through their world-class research. Over the last several years, we’ve been fortunate to have recruited some of the nation’s most promising new rising stars – faculty like Professor Jessica Eaglin, an expert on sentencing reforms and mass incarceration, who came to us from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; Professor Gina-Gail Fletcher, an expert on corporate law and governance, who was most recently at Cornell Law School; and Professor Pamela Foohey, a bankruptcy and consumer law expert, who joined us from the Illinois College of Law. In the next Dean’s Desk, I’ll highlight some of their interesting and pathbreaking work.•


Austen L. Parrish is dean and James H. Rudy Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Views and opinions expressed are the author’s.


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