08 November 2010

Univ of Cincinnati Launches Groundbreaking Law Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice

The University of Cincinnati Law Center is breaking new and proudly feminist ground in the teaching and practice of law: This fall, the University launched its new Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, providing a formal home for the multi-pronged intersectional work that has been taking place at the law school since the mid-1990s.

This newly formed Center aims to prepare law students in an unprecedented way to "take the lead in advancing justice." Students are provided opportunities for experiential learning and research in connection with organizations working at the intersection of gender, race and class, whose constituencies and leaders are most impacted by multiple forms of injustice: low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, youth and LGBTQ people.

Co-directed by Ms. Foundation for Women board member, Verna Williams, the Center offers students a unique joint J.D./M.A. program in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies -- a program that was the first of its kind offered in the nation when it was established in 1995. This four-year offering engages participants in a "rigorous, interdisciplinary and feminist study of law and social justice," and culminates with a semester-long externship at one of a number of national public interest non-profits (including Ms. Foundation grantee, the National Women's Law Center).

"Social justice feminism is our guiding principle," says Ms. Williams of the Center's approach to teaching law. "That means we have to focus on the multiple forms oppression can take and utilize multiple tools and disciplines to tackle them. At its core, the Center is about making change in society. Our mission is to to cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists committed to social change."

In addition to running its joint degree program, the Center also publishes the Freedom Center Journal (a joint, scholarly publication of the University of Cincinnati College of Law and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center) and oversees the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic. Through the latter program, students represent victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and human trafficking, gaining hands-on experience in the practice of this sector of the law. The hope is that students will also eventually apply their practical knowledge to advance policy on behalf of battered women and their families nationwide.

The Center held its formal launch event on October 22nd, with a luncheon featuring Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and director of the White House office of Public Engagement. Congratulations to Verna and the University of Cincinnati for undertaking such an important endeavor!

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