Lawyer Magazine_Winter 2020


When people returned to campus, the challenge was to find ways for them to meet face-to-face, whether it was scheduling outdoor get-togethers or making use of the balconies as meeting spaces. During orientation week, extra relationship-building time was included in the schedule. “One of the first things I say in my opening remarks when students come on campus is that the most important thing they’ll take from law school is not going to be their knowledge of the law; it’s going to be the friendships that they take with them into their career,” Vischer said. A FOCUS ON ACADEMICS Along with community building, academics are always top of mind at St. Thomas Law. When courses moved online in March, law librarians equipped everyone with the skills needed to use Zoom, while faculty and staff worked to reimagine what classes would look like. Grades were also changed to high pass, pass or fail. While the switch to online in spring was quick, during the summer a more intentional plan for fall semester was developed. Social-distancing guidelines led to developing smaller class sizes and moving more courses online. Technology was added in classrooms to connect online learners. The school also structured fall semester to end in-person learning by Thanksgiving, with final exams being offered remotely. “We’re trying to move toward a setting where we still combine that understanding and compassion for students by letting any student who needs to work fully online do so,” said Joel Nichols , associate dean for academic affairs. “We want to make sure to facilitate that. Also, the majority of students are in person and want to be in person when they can. We need to make sure there’s academic rigor and that we’re preparing them even now in hard times for the licensing exam that will come in nine months or nearly three years for some. There’s that dual focus of how do we pull off our educational mission and legitimate pedagogy in appropriate, rigorous ways, while being sensitive to people who are still living in a tough situation.” One of the biggest challenges for fall was simultaneously instructing in-person and online students. Faculty needed to engage equally with all

“The executive director of events in the spring, 3L Wendy Raymond , did a great job coming up with online events and making sure students were staying connected and not getting bogged down by social distancing,” said 3L John Dixon , student government president, who noted more online events were being planned for the current semester.

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