Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Economic Crisis Doesn't Dampen USF Law Student Spirits

It's been too long since my last post. School is back in session (Orientation was last week and class for all USF law students got underway this week), and I'm back at it. It turns out that I don't have to go Cambodia and Vietnam to be inspired by our students.

The economic crisis continues despite emerging signs of a slow recovery, and the impact on law students across the country is undeniable. The law job market is suffering terribly (as today's article in the New York Times makes all too evident -- B1, August 25, 2009) and financial stress on students from even moderately rising tuition remains a critically pressing problem. And that backdrop brings me to my thought today.
Students may be under economic stress, but it has not dampened their spirits to do good works and to demonstrate that they intend to make a difference in the world. Two prime examples from USF could not make me more proud: one occurring last May and the other just last Saturday.

Exhibit 1: The 2009 graduating class raised over $100,000 to fund a scholarship for future generations of law students at USF. 100% of the graduating class participated. Talk about keeping their eye on the prize.

Exhibit 2: Last Saturday nearly 125 students from this year's entering class, along with faculty and staff, fanned out all over San Francisco to engage the community, serving meals to the homeless at St. Anthony's Kitchen and at Glide Memorial Church (where the Reverend Cecil Williams holds forth), packing food at the San Francisco Food Bank, and doing environmental work (OK, it was mainly weeding) at Crissy Field. The effort is part of the law school's Law-in-Motion Program that creates volunteer opportunities throughout the school year. Student photos below along with a photo of faculty member Professor Tristin Green who joined the students at Glide.

We talk a lot at the University of San Francisco about Educating Minds and Hearts to Change the World. It's wonderful to have a receptive audience of students who understand that the privilege of studying law carries with it the responsibility to consider ways to interact with marginalized folks to promote a more humane and just world. The response of this year's entering class reminded me of how much students want to do just that and how we, as legal educators, must provide opportunities to quench that thirst.

No question the economic crisis continues to reverberate through legal education and the legal profession, but if the response of our students at USF is any indication, the students' will to see it through and to realize their dreams as lawyers is as strong as ever.
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