Alaskan students are a step closer to being able to earn law degrees without spending three years outside their home state, thanks to the unanimous approval by the Seattle University law faculty and a long-standing partnership between Seattle University School of Law and the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The School of Law faculty unanimously voted to approve moving forward with UAA in the development of the first-ever opportunity that would allow students from Alaska to spend their summers and their third year of law school at home. Over the next year, the Law School will work with the UAA faculty and will seek approval from the American Bar Association to solidify developing a program.
“We have deep roots in Alaska and have always felt like Alaska’s law school,” Dean Mark C. Niles said. “This important effort deepens our commitment to providing a great legal education to students from the only state without a law school. We’re proud to partner with UAA in this endeavor and eager to help more Alaskans pursue their law degrees.”
For the past decade Seattle University has worked closely and formed a solid relationship with UAA’s Office of the Provost. Seattle University and the University of Alaska Anchorage signed a letter of intent to explore this opportunity last year.
“We are pleased with the overwhelming support from the SU School of Law faculty,” said UAA’s Provost Bear Baker. “This expanded partnership with SU could provide Alaskans an opportunity to pursue a law degree with limited time away from their home.”
The plan to develop a program grew out of the law school’s long commitment to serving and partnering with Alaskans and UAA. The decade-long and highly successful Study Law in Alaska Program provides students from Seattle and other law schools the opportunity to take a summer course held at UAA on Alaska Native law and environmental law, and gain practical experience through a variety of summer placements throughout the city. This summer program is the perfect platform upon which to expand a law program in Alaska.
Stephanie Nichols, a 2006 graduate of Seattle University School of Law, directs the Study Law in Alaska Program, teaches several Alaska-related law courses, and oversees the development of this Alaska J.D. Program.
“As both an Alaskan and alumna of Seattle University School of Law, I am very proud that our faculty has approved developing this opportunity in Alaska,” she said. “It will be a great way for Alaskan students to benefit from our excellent legal education and keep them close to home.”
The School of Law has many outreach programs with the state of Alaska. Among them is the Color of Justice Program, which brings diverse students from across the state together for exciting workshops and activities designed to encourage them to consider legal and judicial careers.
George Sundborg, father of University President Steve Sundborg, who helped pave the way for Alaska statehood, and his wife Mary, established the Alaska endowment, which supports, among other activities, the Alaska Fund, which provides scholarships to Alaska students to attend Seattle University School of Law.
Many Alaskans have earned their legal degrees at Seattle University School of Law, including Governor Sean Parnell. Others students and alumni include Charisse Arce, a second-year student from Iliamna who is one of 12 students in the country selected for a Udall Foundation Native American Congressional Internship, and David Wilkinson, a 2012 alumni of the Law School who is currently clerking for State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree.
The two universities will mark the progress on their partnership at a reception at the Dena’ina Center June 13.
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Katherine Hedland Hansen
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