Student, Recent Alumna Return to Alma Maters as Heads of the Class
Building upon lessons learned at the University of Virginia School of Law, a recent graduate and third-year student are now leading their own classes at their undergraduate alma maters.
Jordin Dickerson ’20 is teaching political science at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Eli Jones ’21 is teaching race and law at Duquesne University. Dickerson was Jones’ Peer Advisor at UVA Law.
Dickerson said she didn’t come to law school thinking she’d go into teaching, but she enjoyed being in the classroom and applied for the adjunct pool. She said it’s an honor to teach at Pembroke, near her hometown, and being an alumna there also shows her students that a law degree is possible for them as well.
Outside of teaching, Dickerson is a Willie C. Dawson Fellow at Legal Aid of North Carolina for the Disaster Relief Project, representing clients who are victims of Hurricane Florence.
“I feel like each time in class I’m getting better at it,” she said. “I am getting creative with how to dictate the lecture, and I think my students are responding much better than they did even last semester. So I just really like it, and I think I can definitely see myself doing this long term.”
Although Jones didn’t intend to go into teaching entering law school, he grew up with teacher parents: His father teaches middle school and his mother is a martial arts instructor, and both have also taught at church. He added that having relationships on campus already and being able to give back to the university community make the experience rewarding.
“Just having the opportunity of being able to apply some of the stuff I’ve learned at law school and then teach that, it’s been really great,” he said.
Jones is teaching a course on race and law he brainstormed with the Honors College to pay tribute to the late Derrick Bell, a civil rights law professor and Duquesne alumnus. Each week, the course explores a different subject at the intersection of race and law, from housing to policing to intimate relationships.
Jones said Professor Kim Forde-Mazrui, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Law, was an inspiration for his teaching style, especially when inviting students into conversations on sensitive topics such as race.
“The professors at UVA all are so dedicated in the classroom that seeing how they lead class discussions, and really engage with students, and take an interest in what the students have to say is so important to incorporate into my own teaching,” Jones said.
In addition to political science, Dickerson is teaching Crimmigration Law, a mix of immigration and criminal law offered for Pembroke’s Master of Public Administration program. After the school approached her to form a new criminal justice course, she blended two of her favorite topics for a class largely comprised of law enforcement officers and sheriffs.
“It’s really important to do something with criminal law and immigration because, at least in my work that I’ve done with public defenders, I think that maybe police aren’t as aware of immigration consequences when someone is arrested and convicted,” she said.
Dickerson said she modeled her teaching style after the holistic approach of former visiting professor H. Timothy Lovelace ’06, who taught her the course Legal History of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Lovelace focused on more than just cases, Dickerson recalled, and she tries to think outside the textbook to bring real-world concepts to her lectures.
She said working with undergraduates taught her to become more approachable, a skill she said any students interested in academia should learn. In fact, one of her students will apply to UVA Law.
“I know some of my students who were interested in law school have already come and talked to me,” she said. “It’s a great way to start learning how to engage with students and how to mentor them.”
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.