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Law faculty approved combined degree

By Sam Salkin
The Hatchet
December 9, 2004

Incoming students can earn a combined bachelor's/law degree at GW starting in 2006. Law School faculty overwhelmingly approved the new combined degree program last Friday.

The measure was passed by secret ballot and is the final step in the creation of a program that is ready to be marketed for incoming classes.

The program, first proposed last year and pushed by University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, is similar to the seven-year bachelor's/medical degree program that GW has offered for more than a decade. It also mirrors programs at several other colleges, including St. John's in New York and the University of Pennsylvania.

Under the new program, students will spend their first three years at GW in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in a major of their choosing and will automatically move to the Law School during the beginning of their fourth year.

The 15-person program will most likely be implemented for the 2006 incoming class, University officials said. Officials said students in the program would benefit from tuition at a fixed rate for their six years at GW and get their degrees a year early.

"We believe that this program will allow the college to attract some superstars to their program," interim Law School Dean Roger Trangsrud said.

Officials hailed the program because it involves collaboration between the CCAS and Law School.

"The Law School is excited to work with (CCAS) Dean (William) Frawley and CCAS," Trangsrud said. "Too often universities function in different dimensions and many schools don't interact with each other."

The combined degree program has been in the works for a year and a half. Law School faculty, who had been evaluating the program for several months, needed to approve it before it could be implemented.

Some professors had concerns about key components of the plan, including class size and whether the American Bar Association would be willing to grant waivers to GW students since they would not need to take the LSAT to gain entry to law school. The proposal was sent back to the Law School Curriculum Committee, which set the limit to 15 students and contacted the ABA to ensure that no additional certifications were needed.

"Some expressed concern about why we would want to encourage students to short circuit their undergraduate education," Jeffrey Gutman, associate dean of Law School Academic Affairs. "There is a benefit to experience classes outside their field to broaden horizons. Things like minors and learning a new language would be lost with three years of undergraduate education."

Students in the program may also participate in a living and learning community and have special advisers.

"We also hope that the Law School faculty will teach a course or two for the students, perhaps a Dean's Seminar, and work as mentors for them," Frawley wrote in an e-mail. "In addition, we will set up in CCAS special learning and advising experiences for the students, very likely including a unique living-learning community for them as freshmen."