Council on Legal Education Opportunity Inc. selects law school as host of 2021 Pre-Law Summer Institute

May 21, 2021 — Dickinson Law has been selected by the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO) for the second consecutive year to host its annual Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI) from May 24 to July 1.

The PLSI — a normally multi-week residential program launched in 1968 — is designed to introduce 40 students to the skills, knowledge, and values essential to their success in law school, including self-directed learning, legal reasoning, writing, and the Socratic method of teaching. Graduating college seniors or graduates who plan to attend law school in fall 2021 are eligible to participate. CLEO, the longest-serving national organization committed to diversity in the legal profession, launched the PLSI 53 years ago.

“CLEO could not be more excited to have Penn State Dickinson Law host the 2021 PLSI,” said Interim Chief Executive Officer Leigh R. Allen II. “Despite the 2020 Institute being held entirely virtually for the first time in CLEO’s storied history, as a whole, the participants felt that they were more than prepared to succeed as first year law students. We were, therefore, very pleased that Dean Conway and the dedicated members of her team welcomed the program back for a second straight year.”

“I am proud that CLEO has once again recognized Dickinson Law’s commitment to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive legal profession starting with this national pipeline program to law school,” said Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law Danielle M. Conway. “While this next cohort of CLEO Fellows will begin a new journey during a global pandemic and a racial reckoning and movement for racial justice, they will benefit from this law school’s commitment to antiracist teaching and learning as well as this law school’s expertise in preparing scholars for the launch of their careers as law students.”

The PLSI is sponsored by and staffed in cooperation with the host law school. Associate Dean of Academic and Student Services Jeffrey A. Dodge and Assistant Director of Student Services Julie Cullings will again serve as the PLSI director and assistant director, respectively. Assistant Professor of Law Mohamed Rali Badissy and Associate Professor of Law Raff Donelson, Clinical Professor of Law Megan Riesmeyer, and Adjunct Professor of Law Andrea Martin will teach the curriculum. Rising second-year law student Beatrice Beaubrun, who completed the PLSI in summer 2019, will serve as technology coordinator. Additional Dickinson Law students will serve as teaching assistants.

Dickinson Law virtually hosted the 2020 CLEO PLSI after the pandemic required the law school to swiftly pivot from planning in-person instruction to delivering a complete virtual program — a first in the 52-year history of the Institute. Through thoughtful planning and intentional efforts, Dodge and his team facilitated the learning, community, access, skills, and opportunity of the revered PLSI.

“Championing opportunities for these diverse participants is one of my greatest professional joys,” said Dodge. “I hope each participant draws from the program the confidence and skills to succeed in law school and the legal profession. We need these future attorneys and leaders now more than ever.”

Jacqueline Stryker, 2021, was a technical teaching assistant during the 2020 PLSI. As part of her role, she facilitated the professors' virtual presentations and helped to ensure that students could connect to class and engage in a virtual environment.

“The Pre-Law Summer Institute gave the teaching assistants a chance to foster a community that values student diversity by incorporating equity and inclusion objectives using law’s distinct context,” said Stryker. “We already had the antiracist framework of Dickinson Law as teaching assistants, and the Pre-Law Summer Institute offered the context for action.”

“CLEO’s Pre-Law Summer Institute was an outstanding experience that introduced me to techniques on how to handle the substantive material taught in law school and how to start thinking like a law student,” said Jeremy Garcia, 2023. “It also helped me bridge professional networks with my 2020 cohort and the professors teaching us. I developed well-rounded skills and competencies needed to navigate law school and become the successful lawyer I know I will be.”

In recognition of Dickinson Law’s demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including as host of the 2020 PLSI, Penn State’s Equal Opportunity Planning Committee—whose mission is to promote greater equity for historically underrepresented and underserved groups within the University and/or those groups that have been historical targets of discrimination—awarded Dickinson Law grant funds for the second year to support its host role.

In November 2020, CLEO bestowed the CLEO EDGE awards to four individuals and one law school that represent excellence in each of the CLEO EDGE award pillars: education, diversity, and greater equality. Dickinson Law received a CLEO EDGE Award in recognition of its significant commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in (legal) education.