W&M School of Education partners with Faculty of Law to provide language courses for international law students

by Julie Tucker, School of Education


February 2, 2022

Through a new partnership with William & Mary Law School, two doctoral students from the School of Education’s Holmes Scholars Program are developing and teaching an English preparatory course for international students newly arrived at the university’s LL.M. program. Jingjing Liu, a Ph.D. student in higher education, and Paola Mendizábal, holder of a doctorate. Curriculum Design and Learning student, will be teaching Legal English in the upcoming Spring and Summer semesters.

The Holmes Scholars Program is a national initiative sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) that aims to support high-achieving students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds pursuing doctoral studies in education. As Holmes Scholars, Liu and Mendizábal benefit from mentorship and professional development opportunities, as well as a close network of academic peers.

The W&M branch of the Holmes Scholars program is led by Stephanie Blackmon, Associate Professor of Higher Education. Under his supervision, both students bring their own unique experiences and expertise to the task of helping international law students prepare for rigorous legal studies at William & Mary.

Usually taught by adjunct teachers, Legal English is a course for international students who need extra support in studying the English language. W&M Law School’s LL.M. program is a two- or three-semester program that attracts students and attorneys from around the world who want to learn more about the American legal system. At William & Mary, LL.M. students take classes alongside their JD counterparts, which helps them understand American law and legal practice while developing their cross-cultural communication skills.

“All of our LL.M. students have significant legal training in their home country, so their analytical skills are already good,” says Jennifer Stevenson, who directs the program and is associate dean for graduate programs. at law school. “However, some find it difficult to communicate their ideas orally and in writing. Thus, this program is very important for their success at William & Mary Law School and in their future legal endeavors.

For Liu and Mendizábal, the opportunity to teach other international students and help them feel comfortable in their new surroundings is rewarding.

“Because of their home country’s transition to the United States, these students may have difficulty adjusting to the higher education setting and finding ways to succeed academically and socially,” explains Liu. “As an international student and a member of William & Mary’s International Student Advisory Council, my personal and professional experiences allow me to help students navigate transitions, get used to a culture of teaching and learning. learning in higher education and connect it to on-campus resources.”

Paola Mendizabal, , Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Learning DesignLiu and Mendizábal have worked closely with Blackmon to develop their programs and reflect on their own teaching styles to better support law students.

“These students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but all need to acquire the language and deepen their knowledge of the American legal system in order to be able to practice law here and abroad,” Mendizábal explains. “As a former ESL teacher, I know the importance of collaboration and creating a safe environment in which we all learn together.”

The collaboration was initiated in the spring of 2020 by Blackmon and Stevenson with support from Iria Giuffrida, Professor of Legal Practice, Visiting Professor of Business Law at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business and Deputy Director of the Center. for legal and judicial technology. Delayed by the pandemic, the course will launch this spring for new LL.M. students.

“Not only does the partnership provide law students with valuable classroom time with highly qualified instructors, but it also allows doctoral students in the Holmes Scholars program to gain valuable teaching and mentorship experience,” said Blackmon. “This cooperative effort is hugely beneficial to everyone involved, and we’re excited to see it continue in the future.”

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