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Academic Support Conference Brings Diversity to the Fore

May 31, 2016

CUNY Law hosted the fourth annual Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) national conference recently, bringing together law school academic support professionals from across the country.

Attendees discussed best practices in their field, including how to effectively support diverse law students, prepare students for success on the bar exam, and secure institutional buy-in for academic support programs.

“It was an honor to host this conference, especially since CUNY Law has been a leader in providing a fully integrated academic support program for its students,” said Haley Meade, co-director of CUNY Law’s Professional Skills Center and organizer of the conference. “There were many fruitful discussions that will help academic support professionals improve what they do, benefiting law students around the country.”

In one conference panel, CUNY Law’s Pipeline to Justice leaders, Cheryl Howard and Ryan Dooley (’09), presented the crucial types of support needed to prepare applicants often underrepresented in law schools for admission, and to ensure that they can thrive. That often extends beyond academic assistance to include financial, emotional or social support.

Cheryl Howard, Marcia Cantarella of Hunter College BMI, Jermaine Wright, CUNY BMI director and Ryan Dooley ('09) in the "Undergraduate Academic Support's Focus on Diversity: Learning from Our Heritage" panel

Cheryl Howard, Marcia Cantarella of Hunter College BMI, Jermaine Wright, CUNY BMI director and Ryan Dooley (’09) in the “Undergraduate Academic Support’s Focus on Diversity: Learning from Our Heritage” panel

“Right away, we begin the process of forming a supportive cohort within the students,” explained Dooley. “Through one-on-one mentoring, small group sessions, coffee hours and larger dinners, Pipeline staff intentionally encourages students to form bonds that will ultimately become ironclad relationships through the crucible of LSAT prep and three years of law school.”

A vital partner for Pipeline to Justice has been the CUNY Black Male Initiative (BMI). Jermaine Wright, CUNY BMI university director, who participated in the same panel discussion, highlighted institutional commitment as a crucial best practice. “If the institution itself doesn’t buy into the success of students of color, this will not work. From the presidents to the dean to the provost and everyone in the leadership needs buy into academic success for all students.”

Florence Kerner leads the session on issue spotting and rule application on bar exam essays.

Florence Kerner leads the session on issue spotting and rule application on bar exam essays.

In one of the 39 breakout sessions during the three-day conference, CUNY Law’s bar prep team, Allie Robbins (’09) and Florence Kerner, demonstrated their methods for teaching students how to prepare for the essay portion of the bar exam. Participants were asked to complete issue spotting and rule application exercises, just like third-year students. After the role play, they discussed the answers to the exercises and walked away with class plans.

Robbins and Kerner also emphasized other aspects of the robust bar support program at CUNY Law, such as pairing individual graduates with faculty and alumni who serve as their bar mentors.

 

 

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