All law schools have what they need to achieve this important goal.
[Editor’s note: Many law schools are doing innovative things these days, yet it’s hard to overcome the narrative that nothing in legal education ever changes. I’m often reminded of this fact when I discover important and thoughtful innovations by my own colleagues at Maurer Law. Legal Evolution is publishing this “how-to” piece on diversifying adjunct faculty to help scale a working solution to an important problem. By the way, Legal Evolution will definitely consider essays on innovations at other law schools. wdh]
One continuing challenge for law schools is to improve faculty diversity, particularly for schools located in non-urban areas. This short essay describes how a collaborative strategy at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, which is located in Bloomington, leverages alumni talents across the country to expand opportunities to hire a highly accomplished and diverse adjunct faculty.
The Maurer School of Law has utilized alumni in a number of ways to meet its long-standing commitment to helping first-generation college students and students from underrepresented backgrounds succeed.
As just a few examples:
- Professor Kevin Brown for decades has hosted an annual, minority alumni reception—where well over 100 alumni return to Bloomington—to provide support to students from underrepresented backgrounds.
- More recently, often with alumni help, the law school created unique scholarship partnerships with the Women’s Colleges, with HBCUs, and with other diverse undergraduate institutions, and built on innovative pipeline programs with the Indiana Supreme Court.
- One of us (Professor Stroud) played a key role in launching the Bridge Program with Brooklyn College, one of the most ethnically diverse schools in the nation.
- Finally, Alumni boards—filled with accomplished lawyers from a range of backgrounds and experiences—have for many years supported students in meaningful ways. The Law School’s Black Law Students Association this past year was recognized as the Midwest Chapter of the Year. The Law School’s LatinX Law Students Association received recognition this year as the national chapter of the year.
Taking Concrete Action
Despite these long-standing commitments, increasing diversity in the adjunct faculty ranks requires sustained commitment and efforts.
Four years ago, Professor Stroud—complementing efforts being taken by Executive Associate Deans and faculty leaders in the Faculty’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee—proposed an innovative plan to help increase the diversity of the law school’s adjunct faculty in connection with the successful summer externship program he was spearheading.
Similar to some of the other alumni-related initiatives, the goal was to more acutely leverage the law school’s alumni network, with a particular emphasis on the school’s alumni advisory boards, including the school’s BLSA Alumni Advisory Board and the Latino Alumni Advisory Board. Professor Stroud had played a leadership role in establishing an innovative summer externship program, see Post 192, and his appointment to the BLSA Alumni Advisory Board provided a new opportunity for collaboration.
The plans were multiple. They included:
Expanding Regional Summer Externship Programs: The law school expanded its summer city externship programs, modeled on the successful New York Summer Externship Program led by Prof. Stroud. See Post 192. Trailblazing alumni led these efforts. Judge Jose Rodriguez ‘83, the 2020-21 president of the LLSA Alumni Advisory Board, launched the Miami Summer Externship Program. Onika Williams ’10, the 2020-21 Chair of the National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, helped launch a new DC Summer Externship Program (distinguishing it from a highly successful DC Semester Externship led by Prof. Sarah Jane Hughes). The school, with the help of Mario Treto Jr., a former LLSA Alumni Advisory Board president, plans to launch a similar program in Chicago and, in the future, potentially a program in Los Angeles.
Deepening Diversity in the Wintersession Program: Created in 2015, and overseen and run by Legal Evolution’s own Bill Henderson, the Law School’s Wintersession Program offers opportunities for students to learn critical skills in a one-week, intensive program that includes a range of experiential and networking events. It also provides a way for the Law School to connect with a broader range of alumni and diversify our ranks. Because the courses are taught in a week, it enabled faculty to participate who live too far away to teach during a regular semester. Recent faculty in that program include current and former BLSA and LLSA Alumni Advisory Board members: Shakeba DuBose, Judge Jacqueline Gaines, Judge Doris Pryor, Judge Jose Rodriguez, and Kimberly Richardson.
- Leveraging Remote Learning: The school believes strongly in the residential experience. Remote learning isn’t always conducive to building community and it’s the face-to-face interactions that make studying in a place like Bloomington unique. This means that almost all courses are residential (the one exception being during the pandemic). Post-pandemic, courses will remain residential and in person. The one exception will be to accommodate talented alums, who could not reasonably come to Bloomington. A small handful of courses will be offered online, specifically with a goal to increase diversity in our adjunct faculty ranks.
- Visiting Scholars: Diversity is not limited to ethnic groups in the United States. A final way to expand diversity was to increase the number of visiting scholars hailing from other countries. Our Global Advisory Board has played a critical role in these innovations and outreach, and visiting scholars from partner schools are supported by the school’s International Programs Office.
While now common in a number of contexts, our approach has been similar to the Rooney Rule. Adopted in 2003, the Rooney Rule is an NFL policy requiring every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more diverse candidates. When we have openings in staff and adjunct faculty positions, we have made a concerted effort to reach out to our BLSA, LLSA, and other Alumni Advisory boards to circulate the information within our alumni networks and broaden our applicant pools.
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Although modest in some ways, leveraging alumni support has been critical to the law school advancing towards its goals. The creation of summer city externship programs, the creation of a one-week intersession program, and the use of online, remote teaching used strategically, are ways—particularly for schools in less diverse, non-urban areas—to help diversify a law school’s adjunct faculty ranks.