Virtual Advising Gala Brings Students and Faculty Together

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After weathering their first year of law school, many rising 2Ls are left asking, “Now what?” As law students embark on the next stage of their education and begin to home in on more specialized areas of interest, faculty can provide crucial guidance in how to design a curriculum that will help them achieve their specific goals.

On May 27, Fordham Law School hosted its first ever virtual advising “gala” over Zoom to help 2Ls navigate decisions about their fall 2020 courses and beyond. 

Typically, the Law School holds a similar, in-person event every March, designed to inform students about the array of academic opportunities in their 2L year and beyond. This year, however, with the remainder of the spring semester’s in-person events canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and course registration rescheduled for the summer, the need for an advising event was greater than normal. “We wanted to find out ways to give the students intimate interaction with faculty and foster communications since they don’t have the opportunity to see them in an elevator or pop into their office” noted Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Linda Sugin, recognizing that these organic on-campus interactions can be just as important to advising as planned events.

Past years’ advising galas have included 10 or so different tables staffed by professors or groups of professors. “[The event exists] to give students, especially 1Ls headed for their 2L experience, fuller exposure to faculty who teach in upper level areas of interest, to let them meet many of these faculty, and ask them questions,” explained Professor James Brudney, one of the original organizers of the in-person gala. “We served food and drinks to create an upbeat atmosphere that was distinct from more traditional academic advising events.”

Despite the lack of refreshments, the online format did offer some unexpected benefits. “We had more than double the faculty participation this year compared to the in-person event,” said organizer Jordana Confino, the Law School’s director of professionalism and special projects. This year’s virtual gala offered students 18 different Zoom discussions, each focused on a different topic or area of study. Many discussions were co-hosted by two or three professors, and Dean Sugin hosted a discussion covering general course selection issues. Students were able to jump between the different discussions and ask the hosting professors questions about how best to tailor their second year academic schedule and related extracurricular pursuits. 

“We were delighted by the student and faculty participation,” reported Confino. “It was so nice to go into a Zoom room and see people engaging in informal, intimate conversations.” 

The event also helped paint a clear picture of students’ areas of interest. “More students stopped by to talk about immigration law in this event than the regular advising gala,” said Professor Jennifer Gordon, who co-hosted a session on Immigration Law and the Immigrant Rights Clinic with Professor Gemma Solimene. “Students’ interest in immigration law seems to be really strong coming out of this moment.”

Despite the uncertainty of the current climate and the 2020-2021 academic year, the rising 2Ls approached the event with enthusiasm. “The students are clearly excited about thinking forward to next year and the available course offerings, even if their implementation isn’t going to look exactly as it has,” said Confino. “It was excellent to witness firsthand their commitment to remaining engaged and connected even when we are unable to be in the building.”

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