Professor Drobac and Landis Receive Distinguished Teaching Awards on Founders Day
As the university marked its founding 190 years ago this spring, President Michael A. McRobbie presented IU's Distinguished Teaching Awards in honor of Founders Day at a dinner on April 16.
"The passion and dedication that Indiana University faculty members bring to the classroom every day is truly remarkable," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "They ensure that our graduates are prepared for success in the world outside of the classroom. These awards honor our most exceptional faculty, their devotion to their students and their strong commitment to our fundamental missions of excellence in education and research."
Jennifer Drobac, professor of law and director of the Central and Eastern European Law Summer Program in the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, received the Sylvia E. Bowman Award. Established in 1994, the Sylvia E. Bowman Award honors exemplary faculty members in areas related to American civilization. This teaching award commemorates Sylvia E. Bowman (1914-1989), a respected scholar and author who gave 34 years of service to IU as a professor, academic administrator, and chancellor for regional campus administration.
Professor Jennifer Drobac's law courses address a range of topics, including family law, juvenile law, sexual harassment law, HIV/AIDS law, professional responsibility, and women and law. And while the courses differ, each ends the same way, with Drobac's "Annual Gerald López Lecture."
Professor López, an influential legal theorist on lawyering and problem-solving, deeply impressed Drobac when she was a law student, and he was her instructor at Stanford University, where López co-founded the Lawyering for Social Change Program. Drobac delivers her modified López lecture at the end of each course, to inspire students just as he inspired her. The principles expressed -- duty to community, duty to profession, and duty to self -- make up the very fabric of her courses and her teaching career.
"After tenure and promotion, professors occasionally lose their enthusiasm for and dedication to teaching," writes Gary Roberts, dean of the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, and Joel Schumm, clinical law professor. "Not Professor Drobac. If anything, she has taken her teaching 'mission' to the next level. By integrating diversity issues and ethics into all of her classes, Professor Drobac is preparing a new class of lawyers to serve Indiana, this nation, and even our global community."
Drobac practiced law in California from 1992 to 2001, focusing on employment law issues and litigation. From 1997 to 2000 she served as a lecturer at Stanford Law School, where she also was pursuing her doctorate. During this time, she realized she could find a balance for what was important to her -- her family, acquiring knowledge, and service to her profession and community -- through work as a law professor. She joined the law school faculty at the IU School of Law-Indianapolis in 2001.
As part of her scholarship, she has worked to make sexual harassment law a distinct academic field rather than a component of employment discrimination law or feminist jurisprudence. This work began when Drobac was asked to teach a semester-long course on sexual harassment but realized she would need to write the course material because it was such a new area. She set to writing the necessary casebook, which would become Sexual Harassment Law: History, Cases, and Theory, published in 2005. For the American Bar Association (ABA) she co-authored Sex-Based Harassment: Best Practices for the Legal Profession, 2002, and it remains a prominent ABA guide to sexual harassment law.
Her focus on sexual harassment legal theory eventually narrowed to a particularly vulnerable population, teen employees. Her work in this area includes journal articles, an amicus brief, conference presentations, and even boot camp. Drobac was one of 30 academics invited to the University of Pennsylvania Neuroscience Boot Camp, a summer institute on neuroscience for professionals in law, ethics, education, and other fields.
Her amicus brief, filed at the request of the National Employment Lawyers Association, and other writings about legal change for sexually harassed adolescents and their employers, are just a few of the examples of how she incorporates community service into her work. In her classes, she urges her students to take pro bono cases to help the law work for "people who really need it." She encourages students to volunteer while still students. She encourages political action -- in whatever way students feel comfortable.
Drobac uses a variety of teaching techniques to engage students, including simulated in-chambers hearings, online video feeds of Indiana Supreme Court oral arguments, practicums in mediation and negotiation, PowerPoint presentations for every lecture, and weekly discussions of family law current events.
Peers describe her as having an energetic and engaging teaching style. She received the 2005 IU Trustees' Teaching Award, and she was named a John S. Grimes Fellow in 2006 and 2009 and a Dean's Fellow in recognition of scholarly excellence in 2005-2006. Drobac serves as vice chair and trustee of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Board.
"I teach law, and I love my job. How many other lawyers can say that they love their job?" writes Drobac. "Life is short, I tell my students. Question who you are and what you value; then, pursue what you value."
At the Founder’s Day Teaching Award Ceremony, a Part-time Teaching Award will go to Larry A. Landis, adjunct professor in the IU School of Law-Indianapolis.
Nearly 30 years ago, as a law student in Larry Landis's Trial Practice class, John Trimble figured there was no way he could mess up his very first approach to a witness on the stand, especially on a topic that was so straightforward. "Sir, please state your name," recalls Trimble of his confident approach that was soon to be rebuked.
"Larry jumped up and admonished me that even the simplest questions in a courtroom should be interesting," Trimble says. "From that day I have always asked the same question as follows, 'Sir, would you please introduce yourself to the jury?'"
For 28 years Landis has taught the essential law school course Trial Practice on Saturday mornings in Indianapolis, requiring students to wear suits as if appearing in court, and for 28 years, "our students have benefited tremendously because of his thoughtful, patient, and dynamic approach to teaching," says School of Law Dean Gary Roberts.
Student after student, having gone on to become judges, federal magistrates, and, as in Trimble's case, an Indiana Defense Lawyer of the Year, give credit to Landis for transforming them from law students with a knowledge of law to law students who can confidently practice law.
"It is of great value to know the law, but unless one is able to place that knowledge into practice, the knowledge is of no value. That is what Mr. Landis accomplished through his class," says Indiana State Senator R. Michael Young. "It is quite possibly the most important class that I took while at the law school."
Those sentiments reverberate through the years from graduates like Trimble, who was in Landis' first edition of the class in 1981, to more recent graduates like Class of '08 alumna Deborah Markisohn. Markisohn agrees that Landis's class "did more to prepare me for the actual practice of law than any other course in law school."
A two-time winner of the Distinguished Teacher Award from the IU School of Law-Indianapolis on the merits of his Saturday morning class, since 1980 Landis has been executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council (IPDC), a state agency responsible for providing training and technical assistance to approximately 1,050 practicing Indiana attorneys who are appointed to represent indigent defendants in criminal and juvenile delinquency cases. Prior to his current position, he was the IPDC's director of training and its state deputy public defender.
So what is it that makes Landis such an irrepressibly effective instructor? A self-described "performance coach" rather than teacher, Landis says his philosophy of teaching is grounded in his own 10 Principles of Learning and Training, the most complex of which is a mere 18-word instruction that "Adults learn better when they are active and engaged in applying new knowledge to solve a specific problem."
Other principles that resound in the course are simpler: "Adults learn skills by trial and error, and they learn more from failure than success," "Training is a process, not an event," "Adults need to be responsible for their own learning," and "Learning can and should be fun." These principles have created lasting results.
"Young lawyers who have worked with Larry are better advocates, well prepared, respectful, and competent," says U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, who taught with Landis for more than 10 years. "The hundreds of quality trial lawyers who have taken his class are a testament to his dedication and the value to the legal profession he provides."
"As full-time members of the faculty, it is humbling to review the remarkable work of Professor Landis," say Roberts and Joel Schumm, a clinical professor of law. "Although Professor Landis has taught a course with the same title for 28 years, he has constantly engaged in a reflective process to assess and improve that course. Our students have benefitted tremendously because of his thoughtful, patient, and dynamic approach to teaching."
Those students, in evaluations of Landis, recognize what Roberts and Schumm are talking about: "Best class in law school. Finally learning what I came to school to learn," and "Excellent practical experience; put 'book learning' into play," and finally, "In my 4 years of law school, this is the most valuable and interesting class I have taken. I have recommended and will continue to recommend that all law students take this class."