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UB offers unique summer course in social change

Students in the “Lawyers as Agents for Social change” course will stay at the Chautauqua Institution in Jamesville. Courtesy Chautauqua Institution

Before returning to school this fall, the University at Buffalo is offering undergraduates and/or high school students a unique opportunity to examine the legal profession and its ability to implement social change in a course entitled “Lawyers as Agents of Social Change.”

The course is held off campus in three different locations and examines how social change comes about through legislation, litigation and negotiation.

The five-day course will be held at the historic Chautauqua Institution in Jamesville, the Robert H. Jackson Center, and the New York Supreme Court at the Chautauqua County Courthouse.

“Lawyers as Agents of Social Change” takes place from Aug. 22-26 and combines law school faculty with guest speakers, practicing lawyers, jurists and legislators, all of whom have a role as agents of social change.

The course concept came from the pre-law advisement office of the UB Law School and Professor Bernadette Gargano. Gargano wanted students to have the experience of exploring the legal field from outside the classroom to get a sense of the profession, explained Hadar Borden, administrative director of undergraduate academies at UB.

“This is new for us working with the law school and law school faculty. It’s our pilot program for this year,” Borden said.

“We’re going to look at how a regular person can become an agent of social change and what a day-to-day lawyer does in his or her work,” Gargano said. “I’m as excited as any student about it. This will let them get a feeling of the law not just as a lawyer but as a citizen.”

Students will also be able to examine the law from a historical perspective and learn about the life of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, the only justice from the western New York area and his role in creating the International Military Tribunal and a prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials.

Legal historian and Jackson biographer, St. John’s University School of Law Professor John Q. Barrett will be one of the featured speakers.

Students will stay at the Chautauqua Institution and participate in the Sixth Annual International Humanitarian Dialogs.

Borden said the course is a great way for pre-law students to decide if they might want to attend law school or become agents of social change in another role. “Every one of us can look back at our undergraduate career at a point where they had an epiphany and something clicked,” she said. The hope is the course will provide that inspirational moment in the lives of those who attend, she added.

Students will hear different ideas about the legal profession and how lawyers can affect change in society at different levels and not just use the law as a means to achieve power and fortune, Borden explained.

Students will be able to take advantage of the Chautauqua Institution’s wide variety of lectures and speakers during the week they are there.

The course is part of the university’s Extension Learning Experience, which provides an opportunity for students to explore the diversity within their academic major. Students can register until July 20 and no pre-requisites or special skills are necessary. For more information on the course, go to