Dean seeks program expansion

By Lindsey Salvatelli

­DeKALB — Eric Dannenmaier, College of Law dean, is no stranger to experiential learning.

While teaching in the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University, he created a two-credit summer course that replaced the classroom with a canoe ride down the Blue River.

“Students co-taught each other,” Dannenmaier said in a 2015 speech. “They each picked an area of research–ecosystem, water quality, community sociological relations–it all comes back to how law influences, gets in the way or promotes these concerns.”

Dannenmaier has had a career in teaching law since August 2011 when he became the director of Tulane Law School’s Institute for Environmental Law and Policy.

But canoe rides in place of lecture halls are only a small glimpse into Dannenmaier’s résumé.

In 2013, Dannenmaier was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The commission is responsible for overseeing environmental law between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico as well as ensuring environmental cooperation between the three countries.

Dannenmaier’s connection to Washington D.C. has prompted him to explore the prospect of expanding the NIU Law and Government Program to Washington D.C. Currently, the Law and Government Program offers externship placements in Chicago and Springfield.

Dannenmaier wants “to build on our tradition of excellence, innovation and impact” during his time as dean.

Last November, the College of Law was listed in “The National Jurist” as one of the top 40 schools in the nation for bar exam readiness and ranks in the top five within the state, according to the College of Law fact sheet.

“We’re really proud of [our bar exam success rate],” said Bailey Standish, College of Law associate director of admissions, recruitment and transition. “This state makes the bar exam a little harder every year. You have to adapt and innovate constantly.”

While the College of Law has received high rankings in the past, Dannenmaier plans for the college to go beyond the classroom.

“[Northern’s College of] Law is also a leader in experiential education, offering a range of clinics and externship placements with government agencies, civil and criminal courts, prosecutors and other public interest employers,” Dannenmaier said.

The College of Law operates four clinics around northern Illinois. These clinics offer law students the opportunity to represent real clients pro bono under the supervision of the clinical faculty. The College of Law plans to expand the clinical program with two additional clinics which focus on immigration and environmental law.

Dannenmaier is concerned about students’ success both in and out of the classroom. To aid students with their success, he and his team developed the Breakfast Club, which was introduced to students last fall.

The main objective of the meetings is “to foster an intellectual community… cultivate an interest in the study of the law… encourage holistic health to provide the tools students need to embrace law school and maintain healthy minds,” Standish said.

This spring, meetings are being held at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays at the Marshall Gallery in Swen Parson.

“Success for us isn’t a student who makes it through law school–it’s a student who finds their best fit,” Standish said.

Lindsey Salvatelli is a staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected].