Engaging with students over breakfast
One of the great pleasures of my job is getting to know our different groups of stakeholders — alums, community leaders, members of the bench and bar and, not least, our students. But for a dean, getting to know students is more difficult than one might expect — much of a dean’s time is spent on administrative tasks with faculty, with other university units and with donors.
That is one of the reasons I started having weekly “Breakfasts with the Dean” — so that I can get to know a small group of students in a more informal setting. Students sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, two or three a time. They are held at my neighborhood diner, Burger Boy. They happen weekly during the term, and I hope to continue them for the foreseeable future.
Every breakfast is different, but at every one I continue to be amazed at the diverse backgrounds and talent of the students I meet, as well as the many challenges they embrace and overcome to get their legal educations at Brandeis.
For example, last week I met with two first-year students who, while still relatively young, arrived at Brandeis from other careers. Kelsey Luttrell has a master’s in public administration and worked in that field. Chad Eisenback was a union shop steward and began law school as a part-time student working the midnight shift.
Both of them are parents as well — and friends: Chad’s wife provides Kelsey day care when Kelsey has an early-morning class and on the occasions when Kelsey’s toddler came to campus, she was able to leave him with Chad while in class or interviewing. It takes a village! I left our meal deeply impressed by their determination to become lawyers while juggling so many different balls.
This week, I breakfasted with second-year student Calesia Henson and third-year Briana Lathon. Again, these breakfasts are for me a way to learn things I would not otherwise. Calesia has lived all over the United States and, following graduation from Baylor, spent two years in Memphis in the Teach for America program; a friend was from Louisville and recommended she apply here. She is now happily among us.
Briana Lathon is a student leader I’d already met. During our meal, the discussion ranged over a wide range of topics, but mostly, we talked about art and museums, a topic on which Briana is deeply informed. She shared a lot of her knowledge with me and Calesia (Briana, you can still be a curator someday!) Our hour together was an absolute delight.
These breakfasts with students energize me and make me excited to come to work every day.