Career Center Launches Civic Scholars Initiative

September 2, 2020

Minnesota Law’s Career Center this week announced the creation of a new Civic Scholars Initiative. This innovative initiative was designed to encourage law student engagement in elections and other civic activities and to highlight the importance of civic engagement in any legal career.

Starting in Fall 2020, students will be able to attend educational workshops and participate in volunteer activities related to voting, volunteering, and learning about the election process. Students who participate will be eligible for a Civic Scholar notation on their transcript.

For the transcript notation, students must over the course of their time in law school:

  • Complete the Civic Scholars Initiative pledge;
  • Attend at least three Civic Scholars Initiative educational workshops;
  • Engage in at least two Civic Scholars Initiative volunteer activities; and
  • Participate in a Civic Scholars Initiative reflection after completing the other requirements.

Because of the compressed time period available to them, students who are currently 2Ls or 3Ls have the option to complete two, rather than three, workshops, and one, rather than two, volunteer activities to get a transcript notation as a “Civic Scholar participant.”

Anne Sexton ’12, assistant director of Public Interest at the Law School, said that she noticed a lack of election related opportunities and excitement at the school last fall. She started connecting with organizations and individuals to develop election related opportunities for students, and discovered that Hannah Stephan, 2L, and James Holden, 3L, were also working on similar initiatives. The three came together to develop the Civic Scholars Initiative.

“Minnesota Law is committed to supporting all members of our local and global communities to create a more just society,” Sexton explains. “Understanding election law, participating in civic engagement initiatives within your community, and voting if you are able to do so are all avenues to effectuate change.”

Broadening Horizons, Helping Communities
The civic engagement opportunities do not require skills that are exclusive to law students or legal professionals. They only require an interest in and a working knowledge of the civic process.

“We have a wide range of volunteer activities available,” says Stephan. “Students can reach out to friends or family members with voter registration information, teach election law in high school classes, develop a voter survey with the League of Women Voters, and so much more! There is something for everyone who wants to be involved, regardless of time availability or prior knowledge about elections and civic engagement.”

Stephan believes it is critical for law students to participate in these types of experiences in addition to purely legal experiences so that they are well-rounded legal professionals when they enter the practice of law.

Holden says for students the ultimate benefit of the initiative is to gain a new way to connect with and understand the community outside of Mondale Hall.

“After attending the educational programs, hopefully we all have a better understanding of how getting out the vote and helping others vote can empower the neighborhoods our school and classmates live in,” Holden explains. “For the community, I think the Civic Scholars Initiative will prepare future lawyers to think critically about how to engage with the community, and reduce any sort of nerves we may have about jumping in to get involved with our community, wherever we see the need. It’s about preparing people to be resources and leaders for our communities.”

Please visit the program’s website to complete the Civic Scholar pledge and to view and register for events. All educational workshops will be hosted remotely via Zoom. There will be both remote and in-person volunteer activities available in the fall semester. 

Hannah Stephan, 2L, James Holden, 3L, and Anne Sexton ’12, Assistant Director, Public Interest
Hannah Stephan, 2L, James Holden, 3L, and Anne Sexton ’12, Assistant Director, Public Interest

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