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New certificate program in College of Law prepares students for work with needy

Loyola press release - November 12, 2014

The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law now offers a new Social Justice Certificate Program, which assists students who want to effectively advocate for the poor and the marginalized.

Through hands-on experience and focused academic study in this certificate program, students will not only be able to advance public interest causes for the needy and disadvantaged, but also provide a strong signal of their commitment to social justice to fellowship programs and future employers.

Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the certificate courses and an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher to receive the certificate, while completing four to eight hours of doctrinal coursework, seven to 10 hours of experiential hours, as well as 50 hours of public service work.

College of Law professor Andrea Armstrong, J.D., one of Gambit Weekly’s 40 under 40 this year, has been one of the professors leading the effort to institute the new certificate and thinks it builds on an already substantial program that not only incorporates experiential learning and Jesuit values but also covers new ground in a burgeoning field where the need is strong.

“We do find that engaging in social justice work is difficult, and we want to provide students with as many resources as possible to support them in that work. Experience in advocating for social justice is a critical component of improving a student’s ability to effectively and ethically address the needs of the poor and marginalized. Moreover, the experiential component provides opportunities for both supervision and independent work, which are critical for enabling young attorneys to effectively advocate for change immediately after graduation,” Armstrong said.

As 18 of the 33 faculty members in the College of Law already teach a social justice related course, students have many opportunities to incorporate classes they are already taking or plan on taking into the certificate program. For example, students can earn experiential hours through the Human Rights Advocacy Project, where students work directly with human rights nongovernmental organizations and learn how to conduct policy research, write and prepare legal fact-finding reports and acquire the fundamental principles of international human rights canon, among other things.

In addition, the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning is in the process of planning a new social justice pathway track next year that will give law students the opportunity to focus their training on skills that are particular to advancing social justice, including understanding the complexities involved with representing vulnerable people and families who do not have access to justice and community legal representation. Through the variety of skills courses in this path, students will apply prior knowledge to solve problems through the use of simulation exercises and exposure to live client scenarios.

The certificate program, together with the Gillis Long Poverty Center, will also host speakers and events about social justice topics and advocacy strategies. These events are open to the public.

For more information, visit the Social Justice Certificate web page.

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