A fast-paced semester is coming to an end, with much to report.
MLAW has been spending the fall holding a variety of events in celebration of our 10th Anniversary. In December 2013, MPOWER approved the proposal for MLAW Programs consisting of Justice and Legal Thought Living-Learning Program as part of College Park Scholars, and the Law and Society Minor administered through BSOS. Lodged then in Taliaferro Hall, MLAW programs spent the spring semester 2014 planning for its launch in August for the fall 2014 semester. With the advice and support of former(s) BSOS Associate Dean Kathy Beardsley, CPS Executive Director Greig Stewart, and History Professor Ira Berlin, whose idea for a law and society program predated our launch by a decade.
We had our first MLAW event in February 2014, featuring then UMD Carey Law Professor Frank Pasquale whose new book, The Black Box Society had just been published, and a second event in April 2014 featuring Law Professor Michael Greenberger speaking about national security law. We soon moved offices to Chincoteague Hall, and suddenly things were off and running under the expert administrative leadership of Brandee Pettus, and then Assistant Director's Erica Smith. In 2021, Dr. Justine DeCamillis became the new Assistant Director for JLT, where she now holds the position of Associate Director. By fall 2014, Justice and Legal Thought and the Law and Society Minor had welcomed their entering classes of about 75 students each, for a total of 150 MLAW students for the first year, for a grand total approaching 1,500 MLAW students passing through our programs as of Spring 2023.
During the early years MLAW hosted guest lecturers from surrounding departments and programs and in 2021, and then started to build up our own faculty with Christine White, J.D., and Brian Gilmore, J.D.. Additionally, MLAW has benefitted from a strong collaboration with the UMD Carey School of Law through which five law professors have taught in one of the two MLAW programs each year. Hats off to Professors Natalie Ram, Diane Hoffmann, Robert Percival, and Michael Greenberger for teaching rigorous and popular classes in MLAW programs, to David Gray for teaching first year students in Justice and legal Thought, and to Dean Renee Hutchins for taking time from an unnervingly busy schedule to teach criminal procedure to Law and Society students.
During this time, MLAW's impact grew as a result of classes and co-curricular projects. MLAW has become increasingly committed to both service-learning and social justice. We added a one-credit option for service, and projects devoted to restorative justice and refugee assistance. Additionally, Law Professor Grace Benton is teaching an immigration course in naturalization law, where students spend the spring organizing and running a naturalization clinic for immigrants eligible to apply to become citizens. The programs are also moving a beat or two towards a more social justice oriented curriculum. The opening course in JLT is devoted to law and social movements, and MLAW now boats a monthly arts and activism evening at Busboy and Poets-Hyattesville, featuring different social topics, expert speakers, poetry and music.
Additionally MLAW has hosted several Lunch&Learn sessions this semester featuring alumni who tell out students inspiring stories about how to get there from here. In November, MLAW played host to the national SHERR conference workshops in Higher Education and refugee Resettlement, and building on our efforts to integrate restorative justice into our programming, we hosted the event, Rebuilding a Restorative campus, featuring Dr Debra Budiani-Saberi and Dr. Josh Bacon.
It has been a great semester, still not over... We wish everybody health and a spirited finals stretch!
Robert Koulish, Ph.D.
Director, MLAW Programs