FORT WAYNE – The founding dean of Indiana Tech’s yet-to-open law school is tasked with building not only a new law school, but a new kind of law school, one that better mixes traditional teaching methods with practical application.
On Friday, Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder announced that Peter C. Alexander, currently a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law, has accepted that challenge.
Alexander brings a background in a more non-traditional style of education with him, part of which comes from his own law school DNA at Northeastern University’s law school, which has a history of innovative, non-traditional models of education, Snyder said.
In May, Indiana Tech announced its intention to open a law school by the fall semester of 2013. There are currently no law schools in Fort Wayne, though there are six within three hours of northeast Indiana.
Indiana Tech would not be embarking on this journey, Snyder said, if the college did not believe there was a definite need for one and that its presence would enhance not only the city and legal community, but the reputation of the school.
The college selected Alexander, who has a reputation for enhancing practical student learning, out of a pool of 100 applicants, Snyder said.
Snyder estimated the law school, which Indiana Tech has yet to determine whether it will be in downtown or on the east side campus, will begin recruiting students for its first class in June. One hundred students are planned for the first class, and the enrollment for the entire law school will not exceed much more than 300 students, Snyder said.
A beaming Alexander addressed the crowded conference room Friday, a small Indiana Tech pin affixed to his lapel.
While his first official day at his new job won’t be until Jan. 9, Alexander said he is already busy and planning.
He said he understands why people would question the timing of Indiana Tech’s decision to start a law school, at a time when there are many law schools available to prospective students and more established schools are struggling to keep their doors open.
There is always room for a good law school, regardless of the climate, Alexander said.
Alexander hopes the Indiana Tech law school attracts students who have been out in the working, adult world, as well as those who are continuing straight through from their undergraduate program – what he called the kindergarten pipeline.
Alexander wants to see the new school develop a balanced of more traditional law school teaching methods – lectures to students on high legal theory – with a more practical, discussion-based application of the content.
And as a new entity, Indiana Tech’s law school will not be burdened with the traditions and practices of the more established programs, which find it difficult to change their ways, Alexander said.
He envisions a program where the high theory of law and legal education is mixed with the practical application offered by local lawyers and judges.
It will give students a balance between legal theory and the practice of law, Alexander said.