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Grant targets Oles seeking pre-law experience

By Mara Fink '11
December 15, 2009

Before they even receive a college diploma, St. Olaf juniors will have the chance to be part of a law school community. A $10,000 grant from the Target Foundation will provide the opportunity for four to six students to conduct research on social justice issues at law schools this summer.

Kirsten Cahoon '98 is senior associate director of career connections in the Center for Experiential Learning.

The students will carry out their research under the direction of a faculty member at one of the law clinics at the University of St. Thomas, University of Minnesota, Hamline University, or William Mitchell College of Law. The program will last six to eight weeks, and those chosen will receive a scholarship for their participation.

The students will be working in a clinic, the part of a law school that employs faculty members and researchers to provide applied learning experiences for law students and legal services to those in need. Each clinic has a different focus, and St. Olaf Senior Associate Director of Career Connections Kirsten Cahoon '98 says that this will help to ensure that each student is placed in a clinic related to his or her area of interest, such as immigration, housing, health care, or community development. “Certainly these clinics need support, and I hope students can make a tangible contribution,” she says.

The goal of the program, says Cahoon, is to provide an opportunity for students to further explore law and see if it’s the right field for them. Students will hone the skills necessary for successful entrance into law school: writing, reading, speaking, and analysis. Mentoring relationships will be developed between St. Olaf students and law faculty who serve diverse and under-resourced populations. Students may also have the opportunity to publish their work with the law-school sponsor or have their contributions provide the basis for legal action in state and federal jurisdictions.

“The grant will significantly expand our experiential offerings for pre-law students. This hands-on legal experience will prove to be excellent preparation for graduate or professional school, and enhance the college's current summer undergraduate research offerings," Cahoon says.

Applications for the program will be available at the beginning of second semester, and interested students should contact either of the college's pre-law advisors, Cahoon or Assistant Professor of Political Science Doug Casson.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or