376: Student Initiated Capstone Project
This is a structured, student(s)-initiated course in which participating third year students use their acquired legal knowledge, skills and values to help solve a legal or social problem or to provide project-based legal assistance to a non-profit, governmental or professional organization. This course gives students an opportunity to exercise planning, project management, problem-solving, collaboration and other skills in a real-world setting, while at the same time helping them to develop the capacity for self-directed learning and to appreciate how one’s legal training can benefit the community, the profession, and/or the broader society.
- Assist a community-based organization serving a predominantly immigrant community to develop and implement a legal literacy program designed to promote greater access to justice for its constituents.
- Work with the University’s Center for the Human Rights of the Child in providing legal services for child trafficking survivors.
- Support the work of governmental agencies in providing relief to victims of unlawful mortgage foreclosure practices.
- Partner with one or more law professors in drafting and filing an amicus brief in a pending Supreme Court case.
Students who wish to undertake an Engaged Learning Capstone Project must design and gain approval for the project during the semester or summer prior to the project’s actual implementation. For example, students wishing to enroll in a capstone project in the fall semester may obtain approval in the preceding summer, and must register for the course before the fall registration period closes.
To gain approval, the student or students must first secure the participation of at least one full-time faculty member who would be willing to supervise the project and provide substantial individualized ongoing formative assessment and summative assessment of the final work product. The student or students then must submit a written proposal to Dean Kaufman setting forth the following:
- A description of the project, including its purpose and potential impact on the organization on whose behalf the project is being undertaken;
- An implementation work plan, including time line and progress benchmarks;
- Number of students participating in the project and how the students plan to allocate the work among them;
- A plan for faculty supervision (e.g., periodic meetings, regular status reports, process for formative and summative assessments);
- Memorandum of understanding from the relevant organization, if necessary;
- The specific knowledge, skills and values that would be needed to bring the project to successful completion;
- Proposed final written work product;
- A process by which the students will engage in periodic and final self-assessment of their experience.
Dean Kaufman will review the proposed project, solicit appropriate input from the faculty, and offer suggestions for revisions and modifications of the proposal where necessary. At least one member of the full-time faculty must serve as the supervisor for any approved project. Additional mentors for the project may be recruited from other schools within the University, or may be adjunct professors, practicing lawyers, judges, legislators, or other relevant professionals as appropriate for the particular project.
The final written work product may be in the form of a scholarly article of publishable quality, a model bill and supporting memorandum, a draft complaint or petition and supporting memorandum, the formal documents and supporting memorandum for a transactional project, or a brief (on the merits or as an amicus), to name just a few examples.
This is a graded experiential learning course for three credits. A critical component of the project will be substantial individualized, ongoing formative assessment provided to the students, and a summative assessment of the Project’s final work product or outcome.