Welcoming our newest students
A growing number of graduate students also take part in Law orientation activities
By Victoria Leenders-Cheng
Dean Daniel Jutras welcomed a new cohort of undergraduate students to the Faculty of Law with both a promise and an exhortation.
“Law is full of stories,” he told students in a speech in the Moot Court on the first day of orientation on August 29. “Tales of oppression and tales of deliverance that will capture your imagination… and the students who are happiest here are those who think of their courses not as preparation for exams or preparation for the Bar, but as occasions for conversations with incredibly bright people, students and professors alike.”
The 170 incoming undergraduate students were introduced to their peers and professors during a full week of activities that included a friendly soccer game on the Rutherford Reservoir field, as well as a speech by member of Parliament Thomas Mulcair, himself a 1977 graduate of the Faculty.
With academic backgrounds in subjects spanning Hispanic studies and journalism to biomedical engineering and finance, the students also count among them an Olympian, a military bagpipe player and a cheese maker in Italy.
In her address to the incoming undergraduate class, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Recruitment Ali Martin-Mayer encouraged the students to challenge the boundaries of the law by bringing these unusual perspectives to their legal studies.
“Put law in a new context,” she said. “Stretch it out and test it with a scientific method, a humanities mind or a business-model approach. Make connections where none seem to exist.”
Incoming graduate students meanwhile were introduced to life at the Faculty at a Tuesday morning breakfast of croissants (au chocolat et au beurre), fresh fruit and coffee.
Numbering 14, the incoming class of doctoral students is its largest ever, noted Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Rosalie Jukier in her welcoming speech, adding that the 50 master’s degree students themselves hail from an impressive 29 different countries, including Poland, South Korea, South Africa, Egypt and India, Jukier added.
Graduate Law Students Association President Michelle Arcona Reynolds drew laughter from the audience as she described essay-writing scenarios familiar to any student: of opening a document on which one has spent an afternoon working only to discover that it contains only the word, “Introduction… Period.” Or of jolting awake at 3 am to scribble down a brilliant argument and then to realize the next day that it is either illegible or incomprehensible.
“The pursuit of [graduate] studies can feel like a solitary enterprise,” Jukier said, encouraging students to take advantage of activities such as weekly coffee hours, student gatherings and activities off campus that provide opportunities to create a sense of community.
“The people next to you now will become your friends and your family,” Arcona Reynolds promised. “Together, you will share not only food but also culture and knowledge.”
To deal with the sometimes bewildering onslaught of academic demands of the school year, Undergraduate Law Students Association President Catherine Coursol advised students to participate in the student-organized Law Partners program, in which a first-year student is matched with an upper-year student who acts as a resource and guide. “On a plus d’une vingtaine de clubs à la Faculté et mille et une manières de vous impliquer,” she added.
The study of law is above all empowering, Jutras told students in his concluding remarks. “Le droit est bien un outil de changement social, comme vous l’espérez tous. Vous pourrez changer le monde, comme vous le souhaitez tous.”
The study of law demands, however, a dedication of spirit and a willingness to explore. “Law is hard work, but it is fun, bizarre, exciting, unpredictable and creative,” he concluded. “Make it so.”
Photo credits: Lysanne Larose