The Pat Tillman Foundation has announced its scholars for 2022 which includes three Syracuse University College of Law students: Natasha DeLeon (USMC Veteran), Amanda Higginson (Navy veteran), and William Rielly (Army veteran.) They join a fourth Syracuse University Tillman scholar, Anthony Ornelaz, Master of Fine Arts, College of Arts and Science, Air Force Veteran.
“Tillman Scholarships are extremely competitive and are only awarded to those who have made an impact through their service. I am both pleased and grateful that not one, but three College of Law students have been awarded Tillman scholarships for this year. Natasha, Amanda, and William are living extraordinary lives through their military commitments and now they are on the path to becoming extraordinary Orange lawyers,” said College of Law Dean Craig Boise.
The three students are enrolled in the College’s JDinteractive (JDi) program. Reilly is in his second year, Higginson is in her first year, and DeLeon will start the program in the Fall 2022 semester.
An ABA-Approved Online Law Degree Program, JDi is taught by Syracuse University College of Law faculty to the same high standards as Syracuse’s residential J.D. program. JDi is designed for students who desire a high-caliber legal education with substantial flexibility, such as those with military commitments. The program combines real-time, live online class sessions with self-paced instruction, on-campus courses, and experiential learning opportunities.
Read this story for more information on the Syracuse University 2022 Tillman scholars.
Natasha DeLeon, USMC Veteran
Natasha DeLeon joined the United States Marine Corps to pursue her goal of serving others on a grand scale. As a Marine, she worked to deploy service members to combat locations in support of various operations. In 2014, she deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where she aided in the return of over 120,000 service members to their families back home.
While serving in the Marine Corps, DeLeon began volunteering in San Diego’s foster care system as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate. This led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and work part-time at a group home for teen foster boys. Upon completion of her service, her passion for social work grew. DeLeon earned a Master of Social Work in 2019, while she also interned as a therapist. During this time, she lived in Togo while supporting her husband during his active-duty Marine Corps career. While in West Africa, DeLeon led physical self-defense courses for women in vulnerable positions and volunteered with non-profit organizations centered around eliminating gender-based violence.
Following their tour in Togo, DeLeon and her family moved to Colombia where she began working remotely as a paralegal for a private law firm. This is where she began to connect the injustices in the legal and social work systems. From here, DeLeon developed a passion for criminal defense and family law. She is pursuing a Juris Doctor degree so she can provide legal assistance and advocacy as an attorney.
Amanda Higginson, Navy Veteran
Adopted as an infant, Amanda Higginson’s upbringing in South Florida was anything but typical. Her father, who was shot and paralyzed in the Vietnam War, taught her about extreme resilience and persistence in the face of adversity. Wanting to give back to military medicine, Higginson received a Navy Health Professions Scholarship and earned her medical degree at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University. She completed her residency in Pediatrics at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda and served on active duty for seven years alongside her husband, deploying twice.
Currently the interim Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Higginson supports students on their journey to achieve their personal, academic, and career goals. She continues to practice general outpatient pediatric medicine, caring for children in a largely rural, underserved area. Choosing to enter law school as a mid-career physician, Higginson saw law school as an opportunity to enhance her advocacy for children particularly related to social determinants of health, as well as expand her knowledge of issues that impact the daily functioning of an academic medical center in order to more effectively advocate for her students. At the intersection of law and medicine, Higginson hopes to create structural change both at work and in her community to empower others to live, work, and achieve their goals at their full potential.
William Rielly, Army Veteran
William Rielly is an Army veteran and West Point graduate. His career has ranged from leading artillery units in Germany to executive roles at Microsoft and Apple. While working at Apple, Rielly started volunteering in California state prisons and found the incarcerated men he worked with wanted to be accountable for their actions and create a positive future. He discovered immense untapped potential among the incarcerated men and was inspired to leave his job at Apple and focus full-time on reform efforts in the criminal legal and parole system.
Rielly intends to change the parole and probation laws across the country to create pathways of redemption for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people so they can leverage their talents, achieve their full potential, and positively impact their communities. He intends to lead this innovation and create a better system through legal advocacy, changing the public’s perception of the issues, and enlisting advocates inside and outside the current system. The outcomes he foresees are better, safer communities; more highly qualified employees; and a criminal legal system of accountability and redemption.
(Syracuse, NY | May 10, 2022) On May 6, 2022, students in the inaugural class of Syracuse University College of Law’s first-of-its-kind JDinteractive (JDi) program graduated alongside their peers in the College’s residential JD program. JDi, a fully ABA-accredited program, was the first to combine live online class sessions with self-paced class sessions. Its innovative design served as a model for other law schools pivoting to online education amid the pandemic.
The members of the inaugural class, which comprises 45 of the 199 College of Law’s JD recipients this year, distinguished themselves in their legal studies. Many are graduating with honors. As students, they were also active in extracurricular activities and pro bono work. Twelve served on the Syracuse Law Review or other journals, many participated in the Student Bar Association and other student organizations, and some started new student organizations.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of all our 2022 graduates, but I’m particularly pleased to see our inaugural JDi cohort earn their law degrees,” says Dean Craig M. Boise. “From across the country and around the world, they have studied with us year-round for more than three years, while balancing full-time work and family obligations. They are incredibly talented and motivated, and we’re honored to count them among our Syracuse Law alumni family.”
The College of Law carefully designed JDi to make its JD program available to students for whom attending a residential program was not practical. By combining real-time, online class sessions with self-paced instruction, on-campus courses, and externship opportunities, the program makes a foremost legal education available to students who need flexibility in their studies.
Consistent with the program’s goals of increasing access to legal education, the JDi graduates are a diverse group:
They hail from 25 different states, including Hawaii and Alaska, and have taken classes while living in multiple countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan.
Eleven are members of the military or military-affiliated, including high-ranking, retired veterans and spouses of active-duty military personnel based in Germany and New Mexico.
30% are students of color.
Their median age is 35.
“These students are the embodiment of the goal at the core of JDi: to expand access to legal education and the legal profession,” says Professor Shannon Gardner, Associate Dean for Online Education. “Without this program, this diverse group of talented, accomplished, and ambitious grads would not have been able to pursue their aspirations of becoming lawyers.”
Outside of their pursuits as law students, the Class of 2022 JDi graduates are global industry executives at prominent companies, such as Apple, John Deere, and Lockheed Martin. They are national and local government employees, leaders at higher education institutions, public school teachers and administrators, bankers, insurance executives, paralegals, real estate agents, entrepreneurs, and accountants. They are parents of one to nine children and caregivers to aging parents. Several already held advanced degrees.
“Designing JDi required us to rethink how we deliver education and gave us the opportunity to take the best of what we do in our residential program and translate it into the online space,” says Professor Nina Kohn, Faculty Director of Online Education, who led the design and launch of JDi. “The College of Law could not be prouder of these students for their achievements here. Their success shows that—with careful planning and an insistence on always putting student learning first—we can deliver a high-quality legal education to students no matter where they may be located.”
Syracuse University College of Law’s JDinteractive (JDi) program is the country’s first fully interactive online ABA-accredited law degree program. The program provides students with the ability to pursue their law degree from anywhere in the world. Military spouse Tiffany Love is a member of the first cohort of JDi students.
She was planning to attend law school in person in 2019 after her family returned from being stationed in Japan. While preparing for the Law School Admission Test, her husband’s military career forced her to change her plans. Instead of being sent back to the United States, her husband was ordered to serve in Germany for the next several years.
Love says the JDi program is flexible enough that she can complete the coursework from anywhere. Each class has a live and recorded component, and the program includes six in-person residencies. Students also participate in externships to earn academic credit while gaining real-world legal experience.
Love has recommended the program to people that have “noticed the Syracuse law memorabilia” on her desk. Several service members she has worked with have always wanted to attend or are considering law school, she says. “In my experience as a military spouse, living overseas in two different locations during this program, I would absolutely recommend and have recommended it to several soldiers that have come across my desk,” Love says. “The staff has always been so welcoming, with open arms.” (Watch Love speak on the benefits of the program).
One faculty member in particular has made a positive impression upon Love. She first met Beth Kubala, teaching professor and executive director of the Betty and Michael D. Wohl Veterans Legal Clinic in the College of Law, in January 2020, when she attended an in-person residency. Kubala was also stationed in Germany over the course of her military career, and Love says their social circles overlapped. “That’s where we connected and I’ve reached out at various times since then, as she has as well,” says Love. “It is two-fold, it makes me feel good about the university itself and its far-reaching benefits. It also makes me feel good about where I am with the people whom I work with. I’m still with a great group of people whose reputations continue to precede them. That’s been really neat.”
Love was looking into volunteering at the Betty and Michael D. Wohl Veterans Legal Clinic one semester, and Kubala made it a point to make sure they could connect. “We met over Zoom, and she was willing to be flexible with me,” says Love.
JDi has enabled Love to overcome the physical distance and work on her law degree. “I met with our constitutional law professor last summer. It was after work for me and it was morning for him, but they’ve been very flexible. Help, chat or support, they’re there and willing to find the time. The program is so portable that it doesn’t matter where I am and what time zone I’m in,” she says.
This type of training has certainly paid off for students like Love. She says her class experience has not been hampered by living thousands of miles from her classmates and professors. “In class we still get the same experience. We still get cold-called. We still get drilled for details about cases,” she says.
Community is a hallmark of the JDi program. “My study partner is in Philadelphia, and we try to meet once a week on Zoom and just connect and review if we need to,” says Love. “I still feel extremely connected to my classmates even though we’re very distant.”
1L Joseph Jasper joined the U.S. Army in 2008, right after graduating from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He later earned a master’s degree in technology management. But the dream he held closest always seemed to be just out of reach: he wanted to become a lawyer. “My aunt was a very successful attorney, and I always looked up to her,” he says. “I think that an understanding of our nation’s laws provides a way to empower oneself and protect others who are not aware of the basic privileges the law provides.”
Jasper, a chief warrant officer, was assigned to a new position as a supply officer at Fort Drum last February. Because of the army base’s location in a remote area of Upstate New York, the dream of attending law school seemed even more elusive. “Then the stars aligned,” he explains. “I was scrolling through my news feed just a week after receiving my new assignment, and I learned about Syracuse University College of Law’s online J.D. program called JDinteractive. I was enticed by the hybrid format and the fact that it was accredited by the American Bar Association.” He quickly researched the entry requirements, registered for the Law School Admissions Test and applied—just meeting the deadline for fall 2020 admission.
A Surreal Moment
“A dream come true” is how Jasper describes the experience of receiving his acceptance. “It was a surreal moment,” he says. “I have not stopped being excited about the opportunity to attend such a reputable university in pursuit of my legal education. I’m still not sure I fully believe it!”
JDinteractive, the country’s first fully interactive online law degree program, combines live and self-paced online classes with short on-campus residencies and experiential learning opportunities. Classes are taught by distinguished faculty, and the degree earned is identical for both residential and online students. The program offers a full slate of student support services, including academic counseling, tutors, study groups and bar exam preparation, as well as opportunities to join the student-run Syracuse Law Review and other organizations.
For Jasper, JDinteractive’s benefits go far beyond those of typical law programs. “As an active-duty member of the military, the flexibility and after-hours availability are what I value most,” he says. “There is also a personal touch on the part of the University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, which I appreciate. Before I enrolled, they answered all my questions and discussed future congressional initiatives.” The Post-9/11 GI Bill and a scholarship cover more than half of Jasper’s tuition, and Syracuse University’s military-friendly reputation has earned it a designation as the country’s number one private school for veterans by Military Times. “People across campus show interest and support,” Jasper says …
Congratulations to Penny Quinteros (JDi Class of 2023) and 2L Margaret Santandreu, winners of the 2020 College of Law Bond, Schoeneck & King Alternative Dispute Resolution (BSK ADR) Competition. More than 70 watched the final on Zoom, with Quinteros and Santandreu prevailing over the team of 3L Kylie Mason & Shannon Wagner.
Third year, second year, LL.M., and JDinteractive online law degree program students took part in the competition. At the final, Mason was named Best Advocate, while Quinteros becomes the first JDinteractive student to win a College of Law intracollegiate advocacy competition.
For their final case, argued on Oct. 22, 2020, students negotiated the validity of a sales agreement for a horse, Beautiful Pegasus, after he was stolen from the farm where he was being cared for prior to delivery. Teams had to identify who would be held liable for the theft, and they advocated for a full reimbursement or specific performance.
“Despite the challenges that a virtual competition brings, students put their creativity to the test and vigorously advocated for their clients,” says 3L Frances M. Rivera Reyes, BSK ADR Negotiation Competition Director. “Without a doubt, we have some incredibly talented advocates in our school.”
Final judges were The Hon. Joanne F. Alper ’72, a retired judge for the Circuit Court of the Seventh Circuit of Virginia; James L. Sonneborn, of Bousquet Holstein PLLC; and Brian Butler L’96, a managing member for Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC.
The American Bar Association has granted Syracuse University College of Law permission to expand its innovative online law degree program. JDinteractive (JDi) is a fully interactive program that combines live online class sessions with self-paced class sessions, residential courses, and applied learning experiences.
“The College requested expansion of the JDi program in order to meet increasing demand from strong law degree candidates for a high quality, flexible online law degree program that meets their family, work, and other needs,” says Dean Craig M. Boise. “The ABA’s approval is a testament to the successful design of our program, which includes a carefully calibrated mix of live online classes taught by College faculty, self-paced classes, applied learning opportunities, and short residencies.”
In February 2018, the ABA granted a variance to the College of Law to allow JDi enrollment of up to 65 students per academic year. Since its launch in January 2019, the College has seen a robust increase in interest and applications for the degree program. Under the terms of the expanded variance, the College of Law will be permitted to enroll up to 100 students annually in the JDi program.
The College anticipates substantial demand for the JDi program in the coming year, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty for prospective law students as to whether they will be able to attend a residential law program in fall 2020 and beyond.
“Given the uncertain trajectory of the public health crisis, prospective law students—especially those with preexisting conditions or those caring for others—may understandably be more risk-adverse going forward and make the choice to limit in-person contact,” explains Faculty Director of Online Education Nina A. Kohn. “Furthermore, mounting job losses and disruption to families across the country may mean that law students cannot relocate or need to care for family members. With this expansion, we’ll be able to allow more students access to our rigorous program of online legal education so that they don’t have to place their future careers on hold.”
JDi is designed to meet the needs and demands of well-qualified law students for whom a residential program is not feasible. More than half of current JDi students are caregivers for young children or aging relatives; the majority have existing careers; and many are military-connected and thus unable to commit to being in one geographic location for the duration of their law school education. By design, JDi is also uniquely positioned to accommodate students with disabilities, which reflects the College’s long history as a leader in disability law and policy.
“The decision of the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recognizes that JDi has the capacity and infrastructure to expand without risk to the quality of either our online or residential J.D. education,” adds Kohn. “Since its launch, our program has seen remarkable success in terms of the academic credentials of the students enrolled, the quality of instruction and support for students, and their academic performance.”
The College will begin to receive Fall 2021 applications in September 2020.
Meghan Steenburgh, a first-year student in the Syracuse University College of Law’s JDinteractive program, is one of the hosts of the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Division podcast for 2020. Throughout the year, Steenburgh will be contributing interview-style podcasts to the ABA’s series.
Her first podcast—an interview with Dan Sullivan, US Senator from Alaska—is now online. In the podcast, Steenburgh interviews Sullivan about his time in law school, his legal practice, service in the US Marines, and as a Senator.
Steenburgh is a graduate of Georgetown University and holds a Master of Science in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Her status as a law school student follows a career in broadcast journalism, corporate communications, politics, and state government.
Syracuse University College of Law announces the launch of the nation’s first online joint JD/MBA degree program, in partnership with Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. The new joint degree combines the College of Law’s ground-breaking, ABA-accredited JDinteractive program with the Whitman School’s highly ranked MBA@Syracuse program.
“As we’ve learned from decades of success with our joint residential JD/MBA with the Whitman School, there is strong demand for a joint law and business education,” says College of Law Dean Craig M. Boise. “JDinteractive attracts many students whose careers, credentials, and ambitions are a natural fit for a dual law and business curriculum. It makes sense to partner with our colleagues at the Whitman School to make this curriculum available online.”
“In a globalized, interconnected marketplace, business leaders must constantly consider legal and regulatory frameworks. Across the spectrum of daily business transactions, legal considerations increasingly occupy a prominent place in boardroom discussions,” says Whitman Dean Gene Anderson. “An unprecedented option for students who wish to change careers or improve credentials, the new online JD/MBA provides even greater access to the high-quality legal and business education offered by two nationally ranked schools.”
Students admitted to the joint program will earn their JD degree through the College of Law’s innovative JDinteractive (JDi) program. JDi courses are conducted primarily online, with each course consisting of both self-paced class sessions and live class sessions taught by the College’s faculty. In addition, JDi students participate in six intensive residencies, which provide them with an opportunity to develop key professional skills. JDi students take all courses required of students in Syracuse’s residential JD program, select from elective courses, participate in student organizations, and receive hands-on experiential learning and skills-building training.
Online JD/MBA students earn their master’s degree in business administration through the Whitman School’s MBA@Syracuse. Recognized for its strong alumni outcomes, MBA@Syracuse is ranked among the Top 40 Best Online MBAs by U.S. News & World Report and among the Top 25 Best Online MBAs by The Princeton Review. Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, MBA@Syracuse features the same curriculum content as the on-campus MBA program and blends multimedia coursework with live, online classes and hands-on residency experiences.
JDi students will be eligible to apply to the joint JD/MBA degree program starting in 2020. Before starting the online MBA portion of the joint degree, JDi students must be separately admitted to the Whitman School, have completed 34 credits of law school, and meet all defined academic requirements.
“This is a real first for legal education,” explains Nina Kohn, David M. Levy Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Online Education at the College of Law. “Through the JDi program, we’ve been able to expand access to legal education to remarkably talented students for whom a residential JD education was out of reach, whether because of family obligations, military service, or the demands of their careers. Now we are poised to open the door of opportunity even wider—finally making a joint JD/MBA a real possibility for these students.”
Those interested in earning their JD/MBA through the new program may email onlineJD@law.syr.edu or call 315.443.1262.
On Aug. 12, 2019, Syracuse University College of Law welcomed 50 new students into JDinteractive (JDi), the College’s ABA-accredited, fully interactive online law degree program. This is the second group of students to matriculate into the first-of-its-kind program, which combines intensive on-campus courses with online courses that contain both self-paced and live class sessions.
The new JDi students began their law degree studies with a weeklong residency in Syracuse, NY, where they took an immersive course designed to introduce them to the American legal system. The students also took part in other academic and social activities—along with new residential juris doctor, JDi Class of 2022, and masters of laws students—including meeting with distinguished alumni and attending a baseball game on August 14 between the Syracuse Mets and Durham Bulls at NBT Stadium.
“JDinteractive once again has attracted a talented and ambitious group of students. I could not be more pleased to welcome them into the College of Law community and to a law degree program that is reimagining how legal education is delivered in the 21st century,” says College of Law Dean Craig M. Boise. “I strongly believe their diversity of background and perspectives will broaden and deepen the student’s law school experience. I have no doubt this cohort will represent the College strongly and leverage their legal knowledge for the benefit of the profession and of society.”
The JDi Class of 2023 gathers a diverse group of individuals from across the United States:
The cohort’s average age is 35.
One-third identify as students of color.
The students represent 29 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
Thirty percent were the first in their families to attend college.
Approximately a quarter are members of the military or military-affiliated, including graduates of the US Naval Academy and US Coast Guard Academy, a retired US Army sergeant, a Lieutenant in the US Navy, and a US Marine Corps Master Sergeant.
JDinteractive is designed to work with the schedules of students who are currently employed or have other commitments. Looking at students’ occupations, among the members of the Class of 2023 are an environmental supervisor for a multinational packaged foods company, a law firm chief operating officer, a police officer, a political media consultant, a vice president of sales in the telecommunications industry, a professor of musicology, a preventive case worker, an attending emergency physician, a pastor, a structural designer, a legislative analyst, and the founder of an insurance consulting firm.
“We designed JDinteractive to deliver Syracuse University College of Law’s J.D. program to well-qualified students who cannot relocate for a residential program, but who nevertheless desire a high-caliber legal education,” says Associate Dean of Online Education and David M. Levy Professor of Law Nina Kohn. “The students themselves are proof that the program has the ingredients to entice highly motivated, deeply experienced, and academically strong individuals. Indeed, among the Class of 2023 are the holders of a Ph.D. in Computer Science, an M.B.A. in Accounting, a D.O. in Osteopathic Medicine, an M.S.L. in Business Law, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, to name a few.”