New Director of Experiential Learning
Praxis Takes Flight Under Leadership of Maureen Aidasani
Chicago-Kent's Praxis program launched this semester under the leadership of Chicago-Kent's newly-hired Director of Experiential Learning. Praxis is one prominent way that Chicago-Kent is adapting its "product" to serve students entering a rapidly evolving, tech- and client-focused field. Praxis has taken the shape of a certificate program with the following components:
- minimum number of credits from courses deemed experiential
- mastery of set of core competencies, as measured by newly-developed scorecard
- effective online presence, facilitated by Chicago-Kent's technology librarians
- completion of a capstone, experiential "Practice and Professionalism" course
Below, Maureen Aidasani shares her perspective on Chicago-Kent, how she's tackling something totally new, and her goals for Praxis.
What made you decide to apply for the position of Director of Experiential Learning?
The position seemed like such an exciting mix of teaching, curriculum development, and counseling students. It was hard to leave a stimulating in-house position with a tight-knit team at Grant Thornton, but ultimately I couldn't pass up this opportunity.
What is the most exciting part about this new job?
There is a tremendous opportunity for creativity here, and I’m excited to collaborate with a top-notch faculty that is already committed to curricular innovation.
What are some of your first impressions of Chicago-Kent? Any surprises?
Even without a direct connection to Chicago-Kent before I took this position, I already knew of the stellar reputation of the legal writing program and the quality of the faculty here. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the larger IIT community as well.
I would not say that it is necessarily a surprise, but I have really enjoyed getting to know the students here. Many have professional backgrounds and they are a really dynamic group. When I teach in class or talk with them in the hallways, I am excited for the future of law practice.
How will you measure the success of Praxis, especially early on? What about later on?
Early on, I expect to collect a lot of feedback from enrolled students. I want to know whether they're finding the course offerings they need to develop the core competencies we have defined. We'll also follow up with employers. In the short term, I hope that the exercise of identifying practice skills and articulating their experiences in these areas can help students achieve better employment outcomes, and this is certainly something we will need to assess in the long term.
Tell us more about the scorecard format of core competencies assessment.
To date, I have spent the most time defining the “core competencies” and developing a way for students to measure their progress. The biggest challenge has been to define the competencies in a way that applies to a broad range of legal practice, including litigation-based and transactional. The competencies are culled from research on lawyer effectiveness and significant input from the local practice community.
The scorecard method helps students evaluate how their classes are helping them develop the skills they will need in day-to-day practice, such as fact development and investigation, problem-solving, and client service and counseling. The framework is flexible and allows students to explore different types of practice. For example, a student might develop fact development skills in a litigation clinic by drafting discovery requests to develop and support a theory of the case. Or in a class simulating a business transaction, a student might identify and practice steps for conducting due diligence.
I modeled the competency scorecard after my own experiences of performance assessment in practice. Increasingly, legal employers, including law firms, are defining the competencies their lawyers need to develop and evaluating their progress toward them in yearly performance assessments. It is important that our students have a head start in identifying and developing the skills they will need in day-to-day practice.
Tell us about the Practice and Professionalism course. What are some of its most unique aspects?
Practice and Professionalism is an exciting course that was designed specifically as the capstone for Praxis. Prof. Ron Staudt developed the course along with a team of national and regional experts. It introduces students to important business aspects of the practice of law, and it also challenges them to consider how technological innovations can help bridge a gap in access to justice for lower-income individuals. Students learn in a setting that simulates the collaborative environment they will work in as attorneys. For instance, earlier this semester, students developed and pitched business plans to a team of local experts. In another module, they will prepare and present a grant proposal to obtain funding for a legal aid organization. It has been such a privilege to work with Ron and his colleagues, and to walk around his classroom and hear that “buzz” that signals genuine student engagement.
What else is on your plate?
I'm coordinating the upper-level curriculum in Chicago-Kent’s Legal Research & Writing Program. I teach in the program and oversee a group of adjunct professors. I especially enjoy working with adjuncts, because that is how I got my own start teaching. I appreciate the enormous amount of time and passion they devote to the job.
Read more about Maureen's background.