Incoming UConn Law Class Shows Persistence and Resolve

Fredrick Stevens in online class
Fredrick Stevens, a first-year law student from Allentown, Pennsylvania, takes a Contracts class with Professor Peter Siegelman from his home office in Hartford. Stevens is a graduate of Rutgers University. (Photo by Fredrick Stevens)

The UConn School of Law welcomed a diverse, experienced and very determined incoming class of 169 JD students and 40 LLM students to a first semester that was redesigned to meet the challenges of a global pandemic.

Classes began Monday for the students and four new faculty members, with a new dean, Eboni Nelson, at the helm. All instruction will be conducted online, with limited in-person and on-campus activity related to the law school’s clinics.

The incoming JD class consists of 147 Day Division students and 22 Evening Division students from 97 undergraduate institutions and 18 states. The class includes a number of teachers, as well as college professors, engineers and an ESPN editor. Twenty-eight percent of the incoming students identify as members of underrepresented minorities, a five-year high. The average age is 25 and 10 per cent hold at least one advanced degree.

Lauren Majchrowski, director of JD admissions, said she has been overwhelmed by the incoming students’ purpose and drive.

“Despite the challenges and uncertainties that complicated their application cycle and decision-making process, they adapted and persisted,” Majchrowski said. “They are here because they want to be here and because nothing, not even a global pandemic, will stop them from becoming the change they want to see in the world.”

Kenny Peralta ‘23 acknowledged that he would rather be on campus to meet his classmates and professors in person, but said he was glad to start learning the law. “I’ve always wanted to attend law school and become a lawyer, ever since I was a kid,” he said. “The dream has always been to protect and help those who couldn’t help themselves.”

The 40 LLM (Master of Laws) students hail from 17 countries, and six of them hold JD degrees from UConn School of Law. Three are pursuing Energy and Environmental Law degrees, eight are studying Human Rights and Social Justice, 10 are pursuing Insurance degrees, 12 are in the U.S. Legal Studies program, and seven are pursuing the Executive LLM degree in partnership with Hallym University of Graduate Studies in Seoul, South Korea.

The law school also welcomed five exchange students, all studying from their home countries. Combined with the LLM students, most of whom are also studying from locations outside the United States, and with the JD students, the incoming class spans 15 time zones from Arkansas to Beijing.

“Our new LLM and exchange students bring unique perspectives to the classroom based on their educational, legal and cultural backgrounds,” said Carrianna Field, director of graduate and exchange programs. “This year we have three Fulbright Scholars joining us, in addition to both seasoned and new attorneys, insurance regulators, human rights activists and industry experts.”

Nelson, who joined the law school as dean of July 31, spoke to the students twice during orientation.

“I am in awe of this outstanding class of JD, LLM, and exchange students,” she said. “Their diverse and impressive educational, professional and personal experiences will greatly enrich our learning environment and enhance the excellence of our law school. I am confident that they will harness their talents and abilities while here at UConn School of Law to become leaders and advocates for positive changes throughout our state, country, and world.”

Because the semester will be taught virtually, orientation looked very different than in past years. Jennifer Cerny, executive director of student affairs, said the virtual orientation was crafted to engage students and introduce them to their new school, professors and classmates.

“This year’s orientation was unlike any we’ve held in the past,” Cerny said. “While we are disappointed to not welcome the incoming class to campus and meet them in person, we’re excited about the changes we made to provide a fun, informative and interactive remote orientation.”

The semester begins with four new faculty members. Maureen Johnson and Richard Luedeman are joining the law school as assistant clinical professors. Rachel Timm, who taught last year as a visiting faculty member, has also been named an assistant clinical professor, and John Kalinowski has joined the law school as a teaching fellow. They will all teach Legal Practice, as will Dean Emeritus Timothy Fisher, who stepped down this summer to join the faculty.