University of Akron: The Challenges and Impact of Administering the PLUS Program
When The University of Akron School of Law was chosen to host the LSAC Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program in the summer of 2018, we set out to make an impact on the students in the program. Now, four years and four successful LSAC PLUS Programs later, the Akron Law PLUS Program Team is reflecting on that impact — and the lasting impact it left on us, too.
It is undeniable that administering an LSAC PLUS Program is demanding. As helpful as LSAC is — and, trust us, they are very supportive! — the LSAC PLUS Program requires its administrators to be a hybrid of law professor, camp counselor, therapist, community organizer, meal planner, and coffee brewer. Though the work is challenging, it is also inspiring. Over the past four years, the Akron Law PLUS Program has graduated over 100 students. These students came from across the country and brought with them the unique inspiration and insight from their diverse backgrounds. Two of Akron Law’s LSAC PLUS Programs were hosted residentially, while two were hosted in a virtual format due to COVID. Regardless, each program offered a full month of growth and learning with our LSAC PLUS Program students.
Perhaps it should have been obvious to us that we would leave the LSAC PLUS Program feeling that we learned more than we taught. But we all underestimated just the sort of lasting impact that the PLUS Program and our students would have on us, particularly the personal impact. “The LSAC PLUS Program has easily been the most fulfilling aspect of my job,” Director of Admissions and Co-Director of the LSAC PLUS Program at Akron Law Emma Schulze shared. “The bonds you create with these students are so strong. It is inspiring to watch them grow and it is thrilling to watch them realize their goals. I love when I hear from past LSAC PLUS students that they have achieved their desired LSAT score or were accepted into their dream law school. I consider my role in the LSAC PLUS Program as part of my legacy; I’m thrilled for whatever role I can play in helping to create this rising generation of powerful, diverse, and extraordinary attorneys.”
Dean Christopher J. Peters, who taught in the LSAC PLUS Program at Akron Law, shared similar thoughts. “We have been so privileged to host the LSAC PLUS Program at Akron Law for the past four years. I personally have learned a lot from the students. They come from a diversity of backgrounds and geographic locations, and they bring thoughtful, fresh perspectives to our classrooms. It is inspiring to see so many talented, passionate young people with an interest in pursuing a legal career.”
Apart from the personal impact that was made, administering an LSAC PLUS Program has also impacted Akron Law itself. Several of our former LSAC PLUS Program students are currently enrolled as students at Akron Law. In a “full circle” moment, one of them even served as an LSAC PLUS Fellow this past June during our 2021 LSAC PLUS Program. Director Schulze shared, “We frequently hear from our LSAC PLUS students that maybe Akron Law was not a consideration for law school prior to entering the LSAC PLUS Program. But, having spent a month with us and getting to know our faculty, community, and services, we see those same students apply to our law school a year or two later. We were also able to create a scholarship for our LSAC PLUS Program alums and are thrilled to be able to provide that additional financial support!”
Co-Director of the LSAC PLUS Program at Akron Law and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Social Justice Initiatives Brant Lee agreed. “I am so proud of what all our LSAC PLUS students have achieved. We have seen the cycle now, with our first PLUS students now in law school. This program works, and I hope that we can find the funding to continue it.”
Hosting the LSAC PLUS Program also created opportunities to strengthen Akron Law’s relationships with community partners. Through the program’s “Featured Speaker Series,” we were able to incorporate attorneys, judges, the local bar association, and law firms to share their unique journeys and insight with the LSAC PLUS students. Most enjoyed the experience so much that they made appearances in multiple years of programming. One of the most dynamic portions of the program, an interactive trial advocacy competition, was taught by a practicing attorney — who loved the program so much that she took vacation time these past four years to teach in it!
Truly, the lasting impact of the LSAC PLUS Program will be felt for years to come. We know that our LSAC PLUS Program alums will carry with them the knowledge they earned in the LSAC PLUS Program. And, we know that we will carry with us the relationships, inspiration, and motivation that they left with us. As we reflect on the last four years and look to the future, we are more certain than ever that this program has been a “plus” for us.