OPERATION REALIZING THE DREAM LAUNCHED TO CELEBRATE DICKINSON LAW’S CLASS OF 2020

April 21, 2020 — The COVID-19 global health pandemic has forced institutions across the country to cancel in-person commencement ceremonies and other celebratory events recognizing the class of 2020. Until just a few weeks ago, Penn State Dickinson Law planned to award diplomas to its juris doctor and master of laws graduates during its traditional commencement ceremony scheduled for May 15, 2020. While the need to cancel the in-person ceremony was disheartening, Dickinson Law’s administration, faculty, and staff seized the opportunity to creatively and compassionately plan alternative celebrations and activities to recognize its graduates. In response, Operation Realizing the Dream was born.  

Class of 2020Co-chaired by Dean Danielle M. Conway and Associate Dean of Academic and Student Services Jeffrey A. Dodge, Operation Realizing the Dream is a robust initiative designed to celebrate and support the class of 2020. 

“Our primary focus in developing Operation Realizing the Dream is to deploy resources, programs, and services that directly target the changed landscape that our students are experiencing in the award of their degrees, preparation for the bar exam, and their professional transition to becoming licensed attorneys,” said Dickinson Law Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law Danielle M. Conway. “We believe in each of our graduates and are committed to helping them realize their dreams, especially in these challenging times.”

Because Dickinson Law is intentionally small by design, personal and individual recognition of each graduate will still take place but will occur in a way that will be a first for the Law School. To celebrate the individual and collective achievements of the class of 2020, Dickinson Law has committed to personal delivery of diplomas when conditions permit. Graduates can sign up for individual and small group diploma presentation ceremonies on campus when health guidelines are lifted. For any graduate who is unable to return to campus, a faculty member or administrator will travel to the graduate’s new hometown to award the diploma. 

“We recognize that our students worked hard to earn their degrees, and it would be rewarding for our cadre of staff, faculty, and administrators to present their degrees in person among family and friends,” said Dodge. 

Dickinson Law also plans to produce a class of 2020 highlights video and spotlight graduates on social media in the coming weeks. This summer, graduates will be mailed a care package containing their commencement ceremony regalia, along with special sentiments of congratulations and well wishes from the Dickinson Law community. The Law School plans to host a farewell celebration on campus when permitted and invite all class of 2020 graduates to walk in the class of 2021 commencement ceremony next spring. 

Determining that graduates have the necessary resources to succeed after graduation is another goal of Operation Realizing the Dream. Dickinson Law will offer graduates an enhanced supplemental bar program, including additional substance and skills development through individualized feedback; enrollment in AdaptiBar, a multistate bar exam prep course; and increased and extended access to Law Library bar exam success resources. 

Dickinson Law alumni are also lending support during this time. As part of a new bar exam buddy/professional mentor program, graduates of the class of 2020 will be paired with graduates of the last 15 years who will offer support on preparing for and taking the bar exam and transitioning into the legal profession. 

In addition, the class of 2020 will receive expanded counseling and programming from the Career Services Office and faculty support through letters of recommendation, references, and support for diploma privilege or temporary licensure practice options. Modified health and wellness programming to allow for remote participation as well as increased in-person and tele-counseling mental health services will be offered through fall 2020. The class of 2020 will also receive additional financial support before they graduate, including increased financial aid budgets, and access to grants and emergency loans. Finally, Dickinson Law is offering to support graduates with the hotel costs associated with taking a bar exam.

“Dean Dodge and I have received immense support from Dickinson Law faculty and staff in undertaking this extraordinary initiative to recognize the work of our graduates and their path to becoming attorneys,” said Conway. “We hope that our efforts will help the class of 2020 move forward with the confidence and security they need and deserve to successfully navigate what lies ahead.”