The university adopted a new Collective Impact Strategic Plan that is tied to a set of Performance Indicators established by the Board of Governors. The College of Health and Public Affairs has been assigned a set of individual performance indictor targets to be achieved by 2020 – the academic year that the Department of Legal Studies will move to its new downtown campus location.
The Dean requested that each academic and administrative unit, within the college, align its strategic plan with the new Collective Impact Strategic Plan and performance indicators by the start of the Fall 2017 semester. Before the call for an updated strategic plan, the Department of Legal Studies held a retreat in early Fall 2016 and created several subcommittees to consider advances that would enhance the program and fulfill the vision of President Hitt for the downtown campus. In Spring, the department joined UCF Online, adopted a new mission and proposed to modify its curriculum. These changes built upon the previous, 2013 strategic plan and the 2012-2013 program review recommendations, and advanced the university’s Collective Impact Strategic Plan and performance metrics, particularly the goals of Deploying Our Distinctive Assets to solve society’s greatest challenges and increasing undergraduate research (2016) and its vision for a 21st Century downtown campus with bold thinking to transform the way students learn and engage.
Our mission is to prepare tomorrow’s leaders, advocates, and entrepreneurs by promoting excellence in legal education, scholarship, and service through traditional instruction, innovative online platforms, and experience-based community partnerships.
The Department of Legal Studies will be a leader in partnering with local, regional, national, and global stakeholders to provide access to and excellence in student learning, community collaboration, and expanded legal opportunities worldwide.
- Success. Everything we do is centered on the success of our students.
- Excellence. We will provide excellence in teaching, research, and service related to the law and legal community in traditional classroom settings and leading-edge online platforms.
- Leadership. We are examples to our students, our colleagues, and our professional and broader community. As such, we will continuously work to meet the highest standards of performance in all our work, showcasing our professionalism, productivity, and service.
- Community Partnerships and Experience-Based Learning. The courses and activities offered by the Legal Studies Department of the University of Central Florida, including its renowned competitive Mock Trial and Moot Court teams, will develop critical thinking, communication, and advocacy skills that benefit students, regardless of eventual career path. The Legal Studies degree is unique in that it exposes students to multiple substantive areas of law that permeate virtually every aspect of life.
- Innovation. Through internships, externships, and partnerships, the Legal Studies Department at the University of Central Florida provides students with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to ensure success in various career paths following graduation, including law school or graduate school, as legal assistants, and in other occupations where knowledge of the law and legal system is beneficial (including careers in government, law enforcement, and business management).
2013 Strategic Plan and Program Review
The Department engaged in its first program review in 2012-2013, and since then has successfully implemented its initial strategic plan and the program reviewers’ recommendations.
The Department’s long-term strategic plan and goals as set out in 2013 were implemented:
- Our undergraduate legal studies program continues to be a top program in the nation, offering a wide range of substantive courses with a focus on critical thinking, communication skills and experience-based curriculum.
- Under the direction of inaugural chair, Dr. James Beckman, the department partnered with Barry and Touro law schools and implemented early admissions, three-plus-three programs, and in Spring 2017, we had our first student enter Barry Law school under the program.
- The Legal Studies program continues to offer (and excel) at the interdisciplinary and joint-honors program Moot Court activity. In fact, our program was recently ranked 5th in the nation.
- The department under the direction of Dr. Beckman operationalized the Center for Law and Policy and hired its inaugural Director, Dr. Cynthia “Cindy” Schmidt. In its 5th successful year, the Center hosted a distinguished speaker series, community workshops, developed a website and community engaged activities and support while partnering with local bar organizations to offer programs and panels as well as student internship opportunities.
- The curriculum was internationalized by the successful development of a study-abroad course in Great Britain.
- The faculty record of research and scholarly activity has continued to improve by hiring prolific scholars, who have published a number of books and law journal articles, and who have been invited speakers at several conferences.
The Department completed most of the action items that were identified by the 2013 program review:
- The Department hired two new faculty members: a tenure-track assistant professor and a jointly-appointed tenured associate professor (with political science).
- The Department hired an experienced and connected attorney as the Director of the Law and Policy Center, who has engaged with the community, organized a variety of guest scholarly speakers and panel sessions on contemporary legal issues. An assistant was hired to support the Center activities.
- The Moot Court and Law and Technology courses are interdisciplinary, honors courses, attracting students from a wide variety of disciplines.
- The Department of Legal Studies remains the lead major for law school admissions at UCF. Each year, the academic advisor provides an extensive review of UCF students applying for and matriculating from law school.
Strategic Planning 2017: 2020 Challenge
To serve the University’s Collective Impact Strategic Plan, the College’s Performance Measure Goals, and the vision for a 21st Century downtown campus, the department plans to implement several projects that will improve (1) first year retention of transfer students, (2) degree efficiency, and (3) achieve parity between first-time-in-college students and transfer students on graduation rates (within four years after gaining junior status).
The Department of Legal Studies has proposed curriculum reform, which improves transparency of the expectations for degree completion. In Spring 2018, the Department joined UCF Online, which will improve retention, efficiency, and timely completion of our degree by providing students with flexible options in taking courses. Finally, high-impact experiences have been linked to improving retention and degree completion. With this in mind, the Department will implement the following projects:
- Improve Undergraduate Success with High-Impact Student Experiences & Community Engagement
- Encourage and increase student involvement in service-learning activities.
- Encourage and increase faculty involvement in community engaged activities.
- Provide high-impact educational experiences for legal studies students through opportunities including, but not limited to, expanded internship and service-learning experiences.
- Expand Research Engagement
- Develop and publish an Undergraduate Law Journal (published on an annual basis).
- Annually encourage students to present their research projects at the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence.
- Increase number of zero-credit research courses that Legal Studies participate in (including, but not limited to, participation with the Undergraduate Law Journal).
- Promote undergraduate research through continued and increased participation in the Honors in the Major program.
- Develop Interactive Partnerships with institutions of higher learning and other appropriate organizations at the state, regional, national and international levels.
- Promote the growth of Experiential Learning Opportunities (including, but not limited to, Internships, Service-Learning, Moot Court, Mock Trial, & Mediation).
- Promote joint courses with local law schools.
- Continue our study-abroad program with Coventry (UK), while establishing additional international collaborations by adding new study-abroad courses, exploring faculty- and student-exchange programs, and internationalizing our courses through COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning).
Promote legal services to underserved communities through partnerships with local legal aid offices, the Veteran’s Administration (VA), immigration services, homeless coalitions, and domestic violence shelters.