Anti-poverty advocate Adam Vasey wants UWindsor law students to consider atypical law careers. He’s spending eight months at Windsor Law as a Community Leadership in Justice Fellow, helping to create a work experience program to place students in social justice organizations.
“The fellowship has been a cool experience that helps me balance using my law degree and my social work degree,” said Vasey.
Vasey is a UWindsor graduate several times over. He did his undergraduate degree in political science (1999), he has a Master of Social Work (2008) and got a law degree here too (2002). For the past five years he’s been director at Pathway to Potential, a poverty reduction organization in Windsor-Essex that focuses on changing policies and attitudes about poverty.
It was at Pathway to Potential that Vasey first joined Windsor Law with a pilot project externship. With the help of a Strategic Priority Fund grant, a handful of law students spent the summer of 2014 working on policy initiatives.
“With the grant we provided law students with non-traditional placement opportunities,” he said. “Instead of offering legal advice, they helped us develop policy initiatives that deal with issues like living wage and food security.”
Windsor Law approached Vasey to apply for the fellowship to create a more permanent externship program that would link up students with community organizations with a social justice bent.
“I think for the law school that’s important because there are a lot of talented keen students who don’t necessarily have an outlet for all of their talents,” said Vasey. “They want to get involved in the community but they don’t necessarily know the best way to do that.”
He admits there are some barriers to cross with the unconventional program but says it’s well suited to the tone set at the law school.
“Windsor Law attracts students with different educational and work backgrounds, in fact Windsor encourages that,” said Vasey. “So it makes sense to offer these experiential opportunities along the way that actually take advantage of the talents and skills the students have.”
Vasey says this field is less developed in Canada than in the United States so he’s looking at some American models as inspiration. He will spend the next few months surveying community organizations and law students to get an idea on how to better construct the program. Vasey completes his fellowship in April 2015.
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