Orientation 2015: Getting New Students and Fellows Off to a Strong Start

September 4, 2015

The J.D. class of 2018 gathered in Mondale Hall at 8 a.m. on Sept. 1 for the start of their Law School orientation. The next three days would be a whirlwind of introductions, briefings, and overviews interwoven with legal writing sessions, faculty visits, technology training, a class photo, an ice cream social, and, of course, the Great Law School Scavenger Hunt (a great way to begin learning to find one’s way around).

The class of 2018 is academically gifted, geographically diverse (students hail from 35 U.S. states and 8 foreign countries), and just downright interesting. It includes, among many others, members of the U.S. Air Force and Marines; a Fulbright Scholar; a drummer, a violist, and a Korean rocker; a neuroscientist and a water polo captain; a U.S. Senate intern; a sorority president; teachers of children and adults in places as far-flung as Tanzania and Bemidji; an editor from Jewfolk Media; a “best dancer” award winner; and a greyhound dog rescuer.

In her warm and lively welcoming remarks, Nubia Esparza, Coordinator of Student Programs and Diversity Initiatives, told the students that they were embarking on an “incredible journey,” one that would test them academically and in many other ways. She told them that as a proud “Double Gopher” herself—one who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University—she could tell them that Minnesota Law is not the cold, unwelcoming sort of place many people expect a law school to be. Rather, she said, it’s a place where professors “encourage you to talk to them about what you may be struggling with in class,” where “you can be part of helping a real client in our clinics,” where “you can help plan incredible volunteer trips to various parts of the country with the Asylum Law Project,” and where “you can participate in amazing scholarship with professors.”

Law Council President Chris Ortega (’16) spoke about the structure and activities of the Law Council and urged the first-year students to get involved with the council or with one of the many other student organizations at the Law School. On a more personal note, he offered hard-won advice from his own time at the Law School. “I don’t need to remind you of how awesome you all are,” he said. “Because this is a top-20 law school with high admissions standards, we already know that you are all well above average. The problem, however, is that not everyone will earn those coveted A’s, not everyone will get that internship, not everyone will make law review.” What to do when setbacks and disappointments arrive? Above all, Ortega counseled, “Have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset.” Don’t believe that intelligence and talent are zero-sum games; instead, cultivate the belief that these qualities can be improved through determination and practice. “Do not let the law school process trap you in a fixed mindset,” he concluded. “Stay healthy, stay positive, and always continue to learn! If I can do it, so can you!”

Humphrey Fellows and LL.M. students

The 2015-16 Humphrey Fellows and LL.M. students arrived and began their orientation processes in early August.

This year’s LL.M. enrollment totals 73 students—38 women, 35 men. They come from 17 countries, with the largest contingent (34 students) from China. All LL.M. students have completed a law degree in their home country and come to the Law School to further their legal education and broaden their experience. Their backgrounds include politics and government, business, banking and finance, entertainment, engineering, arts and literature, aviation, biology, law enforcement, education, cartography, and human rights. Their orientation included an intensive three-week Introduction to American Law course.

The 11 Humphrey Law Fellows (5 men, 6 women) come from 11 countries—Burma (Myanmar), Egypt, Haiti, Lebanon, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yemen. In their home countries, they work in government, academia, law enforcement, the judiciary, and nongovernmental organizations. Each of the Humphrey Fellows took part in a three-week course—either Introduction to American Law or Human Rights in Minnesota. Their orientation included visits to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s grave at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, the offices of The Advocates for Human Rights, and the Walker Sculpture Garden. The fellows also met with Minneapolis Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, Dean David Wippman, Law School faculty and staff, and Judge William Howard (’71), Vice President Humphrey’s nephew. Judge Howard provided background on federal and state judicial processes. The orientation ended with a three-day team-building retreat in Lanesboro, Minn.

Master of Science in Patent Law students

The Law School’s Master of Science in Patent Law program began its second year with a class of three full-time students, three part-time students, and one engineering student who is taking MSPL classes as part of a graduate minor. MSPL students began their academic year with a two-week course introducing them to the American legal system and the law school environment. Their subsequent coursework will focus on patent law, patent prosecution, patent portfolio management, and persuasive writing.

1Ls enjoying ice cream on their first day of orientation
1Ls enjoying ice cream on their first day of orientation

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