Q&A with Professor Chris Roberts
Catherine Ulrich, 1L, a student on the Law School’s Diversity Committee interviewed Professor Chris Roberts about teaching and learning in a diverse and inclusive Law School environment.
Where are you from?
I was born in Hollywood, California. I lived in Los Angeles until high school when my family moved to Columbus, Ohio. From there I went to UCLA, USC, and the University of Michigan for my BA, JD, and PhD. Since then, I’ve lived in Northern California, Providence, Rhode Island and now, of course, Minnesota.
What led you to MN?
My faculty position here.
What type of legal scholarship do you work on and what led you to that practice area?
My research, which focuses on the study of rights, is rooted within an interdisciplinary body of legal, social science, and historical scholarship.
From your experience, what equity and inclusion initiative or change has been most successful at the Law School, and why? If you aren’t familiar with any, maybe describe an initiative you are familiar with and why you think it works.
We have a broad range of important initiatives. Our annual MLK Convocation, our community book club, our summer Pre-Law Scholars Program, and the many student-led initiatives and groups provide many avenues for support and engagement. I don’t think there is one “best” initiative; it is an ongoing commitment across the board that matters most.
In many ways, diversity is proven to be a critical asset to the success of the workplace. Do you feel this to be true in the classroom/at the Law School and how do you/faculty make sure to include students of all diverse backgrounds in the classroom?
Absolutely. Learning works best when you can explore a given topic from a number of different perspectives. In my classes, it is crucial to locate those different perspectives from within the experiences of the students in the classroom. With a diverse set of student backgrounds and experiences to incorporate into class discussions, I am better able to present the material from a number of different angles.
What advice to you have for students in helping them ensure that the Law School is supportive and inclusive of persons from all different types of backgrounds?
If we are not supportive and inclusive of people from all backgrounds, we are not doing our job. Any and all feedback relating to student experience is a crucial piece of the equation.
What are some ways in which you think the Law School can improve its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts?
We need to continue to listen to students, staff, and faculty—of all backgrounds—about what has worked for them and what needs more attention and sustained effort. We need to remember that although in higher education we often think in time increments of “the semester” and “the academic year,” we are engaged in a long-term, generational project with time-horizons that stretch years, decades, and even longer.