Dean of Students, Longwood University Farmville, VA
Education: B.A. in Chemistry, Kenyon College M.A. in Student Affairs in Higher Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Why did you decide to pursue an online J.D. degree, and why Dayton specifically? I am a working professional with a full-time job at a university in Farmville, Virginia — right in the middle of the state. My university doesn’t have a law school, and the closest one to me is an hour and a half away. An online degree appealed to me for the time-saving aspect of it.
I chose Dayton specifically for a couple of reasons. As I researched different programs, Dayton was by far the most personable and welcoming program of the bunch, at least in my experience. During every encounter that I had with the dean and faculty, everyone was so helpful and willing to answer my questions and just wanted to make sure that I was engaged and integrated into the community right from the get-go. Dayton was so welcoming. I was not just a number, and people called me regularly to see if I had questions or if I needed any information.
When it came down to it, I thought, “Of course. I’m going to Dayton, and this is where I want to be.”
Could you talk about how your professors employ the Socratic method in teaching in an online environment? We use the Zoom platform for live class meetings. Our professors ask questions, and they expect an answer. Our names are on the screen, and they call on us and say, “What are the facts in this case, Jen?” I don’t see really a huge difference between what a faculty member would do in-person as opposed to what they do in our online classes, because we’re still getting that face-to-face interaction.
It’s a different classroom environment — you don’t have to search the aisles and the seats to see who you want to talk to. There’s no hiding, and it’s very evident if you haven’t done the reading. We can’t not be prepared, so I think that our discussions are so much more enriched and we get to the heart of the issues so much faster because nobody can hide. We all have to do the reading, we all have to do the work, and we have to complete those assignments prior to class, so we are prepared.
Can you talk about Get REAL weeks and how they facilitate your learning? We go on campus for one week a term. We did get together in the fall, and it was actually really funny, because by the time we got to our Get REAL week in the fall, we all came to campus and there were hugs all around and everybody knew each other. It was a fantastic experience to actually see people in person and really develop those relationships more, but we felt like coming to campus, we already knew each other because we had spent seven weeks in class, interacting face to face.
Getting into a live law library with our faculty member and actually picking out volumes and learning how to do that in person was really valuable. We got to have some good interactive experiences on campus that I thought were instrumental, such as meeting people and talking to Dean Strauss, and have real lunches and dinners with our faculty and make those connections with other people at the law school that we wouldn’t normally interact with during our classes.
What kind of support have you received while in the program? The support has been great. We all participated in a one-credit student success course in the fall about legal education that taught us how to balance our time, study and do outlines — the kind of basic things. We were encouraged to reach out to our student success advisors to have those personal conversations, which I took advantage of. I thought they were very helpful in being able to kind of get my feet under me as an online student in the legal education world. I felt very supported in my interactions with my faculty and the other support services that are available.
Would you recommend an online J.D. or specifically the J.D. at Dayton to others, and if so, why? I would absolutely recommend it. You need to make sure that you are disciplined, but if you are committed to getting a legal education, then Dayton offers a fantastic program. Law@Dayton gives you the skills and foundation for success. The curriculum is tailored specifically toward passing the bar and making sure we are successful as legal professionals. At the same time, they have done a really good job of making sure we’re also integrated and connected to the larger UD community.