The final candidate to present her platform for the St. Thomas School of Law dean position, professor Ruth Okediji from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities School of Law, shared her vision for the school on Thursday, Sept. 20, in Schulze Hall Auditorium on the university’s Minneapolis campus.
Okediji’s presentation, titled “The Good News of St. Thomas School of Law,” compared St. Thomas to the biblical “city that is set on a hill’’ and emphasized how St. Thomas could incorporate faith values more actively into the curriculum.
Professor Ruth Okediji is from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities School of Law. She shared her vision for the school and has served on the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.
“We are not looking to build a business model, we are looking to build a service model,” Okediji said. “I want students to know that they are not investing in a vocation, but a calling.”
To accomplish this goal, Okediji proposed searching for government partnerships. In addition to developing students’ sense of the law’s effects on the community, Okediji said it would be an opportunity to generate revenue. She would also seek out new fundraising options by reaching out to alumni.
Okediji said she would strengthen the St. Thomas community by talking with deans from the undergraduate school to devise new educational programs. In the past, she has joined law and undergraduate students, such as engineering students, to combine and solve community issues.
“We have a greater responsibility and greater mission and vision of serving our community and responding … to an important national and global need to speak about the value of human life,” Okediji said. “That’s the platform to build a law school off of.”
Structurally, Okediji said she is interested in establishing at least four centers of expertise, where students could delve more deeply into law. These four areas are constitutional law and governance, human rights and religious freedom, ethics and markets or globalization and social justice. She foresees establishing at least one of these centers within the next two to three years and hopes all of them would be completed within the next decade.
Building each student’s scholarship off of individual strengths while adding transferrable skills in every classroom is another one of Okediji’s goals. By exposing students to new markets and cross-legal cultures, they will be more prepared spiritually and intellectually to handle legal issues in any field.
Second-year law student Joy Nissen said that she is intrigued by Okediji’s idea to integrate the School of Law and the other departments of the university.
“She would open up St. Thomas to a whole new community that we have never had the opportunity to encounter,” Nissen said. “It would be a very unique look for our university.”
Second-year law student Steve Kool attended other candidates’ final presentations. He said that all of the candidates brought up improvements that the school could use.
“I was at the first presentation, and the difference was that (the candidate) didn’t bring up the mission. I liked how Okediji added a new twist on it,” Kool said.
Besides serving the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development as a consultant, Okediji’s accomplishments include the Regents’ Superior Teaching Award, the Student Bar Association’s Outstanding Professor Award, and the Professor Most Likely to Go Beyond the Call of Duty recognition. In 2008, she was elected into the American Law Institute.
TommieMedia will be covering all candidates’ public speeches equally and fairly during the election period.
Anastasia Straley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.