Southwestern Faculty Extends Curricular Reform to Upper Division Offerings
Following on the momentum and success of the initiatives introduced last academic year to enhance the traditional first-year experience,
the Southwestern faculty has adopted several exciting new curricular
innovations for the upper division.
Three new programs will be integrated into the curriculum commencing with the Fall 2008 semester: a Capstone Course, a January Intersession, and a Floating Mini-Term. The programs are designed to encourage student engagement during the second, third, and (where applicable) fourth years of study, respond to issues identified through the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), and extend the momentum created by Southwestern's new first-year curricular reforms. The latter have been well received by students and commended by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Dean Bryant Garth said, "This series of upper level curricular initiatives will confirm the recognition we already received from the Carnegie Endowment as one of the few law schools truly embracing the challenge of developing a curriculum that incorporates theory, practice and integration into the profession."
The January Intersession consists of a one-week term held before the regular Spring Semester begins and will feature a menu of about a dozen new and innovative courses that are more suited to short-term, intensive treatment than to a traditional semester. Students have the opportunity to enroll in one or two-unit courses focusing on a discrete topic with a skills or practice focus. The classes meet about three to four hours a day for the five days and most are graded on the performance of skills or something other than a final exam. Enrollment in the January Intersession is limited to upper division Day and Evening students and second year SCALE students. While it is mandatory for SCALE II students, it is discretionary (rather than mandatory) for all other upper division students. Invitations to teach these special short courses are being directed to potential visitors, adjuncts, interested full-time faculty, and other experts in the field who otherwise might not be available for a full semester.
According to Associate Dean Christopher Cameron, "The creation of this new January Intersession is one of our most exciting curricular reforms. We are pleased to be able to respond to students' wishes, as expressed in the LSSSE survey, for greater engagement after the first year. We are looking forward to the inaugural Intersession, which will run January 5-9, 2009."
Among the January Intersession courses approved by the faculty are:
- The Art of Persuasion
- Business Concepts for Liberal Arts Majors
- Criminal Law in Action
- Selected Problems in Evidence (Evidence Lab)
- Fashion Law
- Legal Spanish for International Practice
- Media Litigation
- Prosecution and Defense of Domestic Violence Cases
- Reproductive Technologies and the Law
- VITA Income Tax Course
Capstone Courses provide the opportunity for advanced study, with special emphasis on teaching the Carnegie Foundation Report principles of theory to practice and professionalism. A given Capstone could be interdisciplinary, cover multiple subjects, and be team-taught. Students might opt to enroll in such a course during their final semester or year of study, after having completed the applicable prerequisites. Enrollment is limited to ensure individual attention, as well as sufficient time and resources for simulations - including but not limited to advocacy, alternative dispute resolution, and transactional skills. Evaluation is based on skills versus an exam. Students in all programs - Day, PLEAS, Evening, and SCALE - are eligible to take Capstones. These courses are taught primarily by full-time faculty, in some cases team-teaching with practitioners serving in the capacity of adjunct or visiting professors, or perhaps as guest speakers.
A three-unit Mass Tort Litigation course will be offered as a Capstone course. Other examples of pending Capstone courses are Advanced Entertainment Practice, Real Estate Transactions, and Working Knowledge: The Theory and Practice of Employment Law.
The Floating Mini-Term concept is somewhere in between the January Intersession and Capstone Courses. A course offered on a Floating Mini-Term basis will treat a traditional subject, but during a period of three to seven weeks, rather than a traditional 14- or 15-week semester. The precise length will vary, depending on curricular interest, the availability of the anticipated professor, and the nature of the subject. It is anticipated that the Mini-Term program will enable Southwestern to enlist distinguished guest faculty from around the country or even internationally to teach specialized courses.
Initial Mini-Term offerings approved thus far for Spring 2009 include an 8-week course on Islamic Law, and a 4-week course on European Union: Regulatory Law.