By Jacob Rooksby, J.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor, Gonzaga University School of Law
To me, the hallmark of a Jesuit education is St. Ignatius of Loyola’s call to “go forth and set the world on fire.” Our students are rays of light who bring passion and energy to the world around them.
As a Jesuit law school, we at Gonzaga University are committed to harnessing our students’ passion and helping to shape it so that they can go out and be change agents through their work as attorneys. Our mission is to light the fire and watch it grow.
We approach education with a view toward educating the whole person, recognizing that attorneys, first and foremost, are people in a constant state of formation, seeking to improve themselves and the world around them. We see this sensitivity displayed in the close relationships forged between our faculty, staff and students. The potential to impact lives, inside as well as outside of the classroom, is what draws me and many of my colleagues to work in Jesuit legal education.
Shortly after my arrival to Gonzaga, we reflected on a statement that would best embody our humanistic identity. Passion into Practice is now the mantra that guides our thinking about the work we do here at Gonzaga Law School. But a statement alone doesn’t get the job done. We live out this mission every day in many ways:
Service to the community is a touchstone of legal education. Our students fulfill public service requirements in order to graduate, and most engage in substantial pro bono work during their time as Zags. Opportunities abound through our clinical legal education program, which was one of the first of its kind in the nation back in the 1970s. Students serve local elderly populations through our Elder Law Clinic and tribal clients through our Indian Law Clinic. And this year, in conjunction with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, we are thrilled to launch our Immigration Practice and Policy Clinic, allowing us to serve marginalized individuals in times of need, while also recognizing the Church’s call to action on issues surrounding immigration, a pressing concern of our times.
Our Center for Civil and Human Rights is our signature platform for social justice education and action at Gonzaga Law School. In addition to academic programming in the realm of social justice, the Center coordinates student engagement in the community through such programs as the Moderate Means Project, in which law students match low-income clients with practicing attorneys willing to provide legal representation at low cost. It also features a jurist-in-residence program, whereby students learn from former or current judges on such topics as Civil Rights Lawyering.
Our newest academic program is the Center for Law, Ethics & Commerce. Recognizing that attorneys who do well must also do good, the Center focuses its programming on fostering dialogue on how the worlds of law, business and ethics can and should work together for the common good. We believe there is a need to train business-minded students to be sensitive to the ethical dimensions of commerce. This unique Center positions us well to do just that.
Our commitment to educating students to change the world extends literally across the globe. We use our campus in Florence, Italy as the site of educational programming for law students in our successful summer study program, which attracts students beyond Gonzaga. There, we host an annual human rights symposium—an academic event that draws leading international scholars to exchange ideas for the benefit of students. Last year’s topic was “Freedom of Expression as a Human Right.” In summer 2020, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States, the theme is “Women’s Rights as Human Rights.”
Through generous benefaction, we were recently able to commission a substantial piece of art from a local artist, Ben Joyce, for permanent display in the entrance to our building. Fittingly called Go Forth, the piece symbolizes our students’ attachment to place through the roots they are establishing in Gonzaga Law, and the unfolding potential of what and who they are becoming.
A Jesuit legal education expands the mind while nourishing the soul. We are proud of the work we are doing at Gonzaga Law School. For an institution over 100 years old, we are excited as we know the best is yet to come.