Aug. 14, 2007
Incoming Law Students To Participate In Afternoon Of Public Service
Iowa's incoming first-year law students can expect to work up a sweat during orientation next week.
For three hours on Aug. 22, all of approximately 200 new students will push and tote and chop their way through the University of Iowa College of Law's first-ever afternoon of community service. The event will kick off the law school's new public service community engagement program that will see law students participating in public service projects across Iowa and incorporate service learning components into the curriculum.
This year, the incoming law students will help to clean equipment shelters for Habitat for Humanity and Iowa City's Friends of Historic Preservation; clear brush at Lake MacBride; spruce up the Miracles in Motion barn, a facility in Swisher where developmentally disabled children can ride horses; and clean out various local day care centers, the North Liberty food pantry and a second-hand store operated by the Mennonite Church.
Linda McGuire, the law school's former associate dean of students and new associate dean of civic engagement, developed the public service program. She said the goal is more than just providing bodies to help local charitable organizations (although that is one important consideration). She said the opportunities would show students the importance of providing leadership and community service in their professional, post-law school lives.
"For our law students, it's a chance to keep alive their spirit of giving service to their community," McGuire said. "It will inculcate in them the sense that their professional responsibility to their community goes beyond their legal work, and it will help them understand their communities' needs firsthand. Those are things best learned outside the law school."
The new position has been in the works for more than a year and was first initiated by Carolyn Jones, dean of the UI College of Law.
"The College of Law has a long history of providing outstanding civic engagement and service opportunities for our students to help improve our communities," said Jones. She noted such student-initiated public service projects as the Equal Justice Foundation's stipends for students who intern with public service legal organizations; the NOLA project, which recruits law students to visit New Orleans during spring break and provide basic legal services to victims of Hurricane Katrina; and the Sandy Boyd Award, presented to Iowa law students who perform 100 hours of community service.
"Dean McGuire has deep roots in Iowa and a commitment to community engagement and service learning, so I'm excited about this opportunity she will have to expand the programs we offer and refine the programs we have," Jones said.
McGuire said she will work with public service agencies and organizations across the state to connect them with law students who can provide specialized assistance.
The law school's program is part of a larger university-wide initiative to incorporate service learning into the curriculum. The university's Civic Engagement Program connects student organizations with community groups that need assistance. Mary Mathew Wilson, the program's coordinator, said she and McGuire have worked together to get the law school's program off the ground and will continue to build partnerships in the future.
"We're excited to work with the law school's program because it makes the University of Iowa a more engaged university overall and raises our general presence in the community," said Mathew Wilson.
In addition, she said the educational background of the law students is a new university resource for Iowa community organizations to tap.
"With their legal training, law students will bring a specialized kind of service that no other student at the university can provide," she said. "That really broadens the types of engagement we can offer and the kinds of organizations we can partner with."
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500MEDIA CONTACT: Linda McGuire, 319-335-9094, firstname.lastname@example.org; Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, email@example.com