USD School of Law Showcases Its Changemaker Might as Ashoka Pre-Day Host

USD School of Law Showcases Its Changemaker Might as Ashoka Pre-Day Host

It’s talked about a lot at the University of San Diego — it’s a Changemaker campus. Back in 2011, the university was the Ashoka organization’s first West Coast and California-based Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. It's part of the fabric that weaves throughout the campus for every Torero.

LawAshoka PreDay 2019

Two years later, USD hosted the Ashoka U Exchange, which attracts people from other Changemaker campuses and those involved with social entrepreneurship and innovation. It was at USD’s 2013 Exchange that Ashoka CEO and Founder Bill Drayton stated: “Change in the world today is accelerating. The world needs everyone to be a Changemaker. Everyone needs to have a dream and build on it. We can all make a difference.”

Indeed, the desire to be a Changemaker invites each person to think about how it applies to them and what they can do to help or inspire others. That same desire then has intensified worldwide.

Law and Social Innovation Pre-Day

In 2019, as the most recent Ashoka U Exchange took place in San Diego last week — host UC San Diego is a relative newcomer to the Changemaker Campus designation among the 42 that exist worldwide — the USD School of Law did something fresh and innovative.

The Law and Social Innovation Pre-Day on Feb. 20 marked the third year the Ashoka U Exchange has had a law-focused programming track, but USD’s law school became the first to host one as a pre-Exchange day, thus opening the opportunity for those in the legal education field to focus solely on law and how it can do changemaking work.

“I’m very proud of the School of Law taking the lead on this important first and grateful for the support of our dean (Stephen Ferruolo) on this initiative,” said Bridget Gramme ’98, ’03 (JD), an administrative director and supervising attorney for USD's Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL), an adjunct law professor and the organizer of the pre-day event. “We firmly believe that lawyers are Changemakers and, as the dean said in his opening remarks, those who are capable of creating ‘enduring’ and lasting change.”

The day’s programming meaning was introduced by Dean Ferruolo and was followed by Kroc School of Peace Studies Dean Patricia Marquez, who spoke briefly about the dual degree program between USD’s law and peace schools before introducing keynote speaker Justin Dillon, founder and CEO of FRDM.

Dillon, an entrepreneur, author and artist, founded the enterprise software company FRDM, with a mission of changing the world through the power of the public’s purchases. FRDM is a business platform used by multiple Fortune 500 companies to measure and mitigate risk of forced labor in supply chains. Dillon is also founder and CEO of Made in a Free World, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending forced labor, human trafficking and modern-day slavery through increased public awareness, action and advocacy. He’s the author of A Selfish Plan to Change the World (2017) and director for a film documentary, Call + Response. 

Dillon shared a few personal stories with the audience and directed it through the two kinds of dreams he believes all people have — a rock dream and a soul dream. The rock dream is the script for your life, essentially what you’re good at. The soul dream centers on what a person is uniquely meant to do in life.

“I feel Justin’s keynote was the perfect way to kick off the event, helping all of us think about the power of purpose and how to help our law students connect with that purpose in a meaningful way and to be intentional about the ways they might utilize their law degree to make an impact,” Gramme said.

Participants then broke into a small-group setting to ultimately work together on developing a Law and Social Innovation law school class curriculum. Lunch followed and also included the chance to meet and learn from local Changemaker organizations. There was a panel discussion with lawyers who had transformed their lives and found a niche within the law profession; There was a session devoted to finding meaning in the law; and the day closed with a USD law student panel with three second-year students, Hunter Terry, Josephine Leong, Kelsey Burns, and first-year Michael Melton.

Critical Thinking for Legal Education

“Our goal for the law and social innovation pre-day is to think critically about legal education and the ways in which we can intentionally train the next generation of lawyers to think critically about the law as a tool for positive social change and to learn the skills they’ll need to make that happen,” Gramme said.

Gramme, who also attended the Ashoka U Exchange, said her big takeaway from both it and the pre-day, is that “socially responsible businesses are the future, ‘triple bottom line’ (people, profit, planet) thinking. We need to train our lawyers to work for and/or create these businesses. I would like to identify potential employers in this space and learn from them what they would like to see in their lawyers so we can incorporate that feedback into our future curriculum.”

In developing a class curriculum for law school Changemakers the groups narrowed it to five modules — Reframing Lawyering; Changemaking Skills; The Law as a Change Tool; The Business of Changemaking; and Financing Changemaking. Suggested books, case studies and articles to read, videos to see and listening to particular podcasts complemented the syllabus.

“The design-thinking exercise to co-create a law and social innovation syllabus was a hit,” Gramme said. “We had such a unique range of participants, from current law students, including one from Turkey, nonprofit leaders in the community, law professors and administrators all working together to contribute to the outcome. I’m most excited to see the end result after we incorporate feedback we receive and then have a final product which people may actually use. It will be an open source document for anyone to replicate.”

Changemaking Sources, Inspiration

Perhaps future sources for the changemaking-focused course would be to connect with one of the San Diego organizations represented at the event. USD’s School of Law Legal Clinics, the Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC), Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) and CPIL were there, as well as the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Project Concern International, Protect the Joy, Think Dignity, San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Inc. Southern Immigration Law Project and the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement. Another one, Free to Thrive, empowers survivors of human trafficking to be free from exploitation and thrive by providing them with legal services and connections to other supportive services. USD law alumna Jamie D. Quient ’11 (JD) is with Free to Thrive as its president and managing attorney.

Current law students shared their respective interests and experiences within the law school and answered questions from moderator Annette McGee Johnson, Ashoka’s Global General Counsel and from the audience.

Hunter Terry, who had done journalism for a few years prior to attending law school, had a desire to write stories about people who can make change and make the world a better place. Last year in Boston, he attended the Ashoka U Exchange and was pleased not only to be in law school and studying ways that his degree can help make change, but it reinforced his passion.

“That’s what I found when I went to the Exchange last year. It was so inspiring to be around so many people there with the same motivation as me,” Terry said.

Fellow students on the panel said they see what’s happening in the world and want to do something. Kelsey Burns, who is involved with a USD student chapter of a national animal legal defense fund, said her desire to attend law school stems from a belief that the legal profession is an essential tool and "thought it was the most powerful thing I could do to help make change from the top down.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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